UK pork exports up 13% over last year - AHDB

Figures are not a fair comparison though, said AHDB analyst
calendar icon 2 December 2022
clock icon 2 minute read

September’s trade figures show that so far this year (Jan-Sep) the UK has imported 587,300 tonnes of pig meat (excluding offal), according to AHDB analyst Freya Shuttleworth. Although this is a 13% increase in volume compared to this time last year, comparisons to 2021 and 2020 are not fairly comparable due to the impacts of adjusting to new Brexit trading and covid-19 restrictions. If we compare current imports to those from 2019, volumes are lower in 2022 by 50,500 tonnes (-8%).

Data from earlier this year shows that the UK appeared to be making use of butchery abroad to produce the specific cuts in demand as staff shortages limited domestic butchery capacity. Prior to the pandemic and Brexit, bone-in products were imported in larger volumes than boneless, however in late 2021 and early 2022 this switched.

Despite our summer outlook forecasting that total UK demand for pork would fall 2% (across 2022) due to the cost of living crisis, food service volumes are up 23% year on year (52 weeks ending 4 Sep). Covid restrictions limited opportunities for this market in 2021 which is less likely to source British. This matters in the context of increased imports, as this could be the main destination for imported product, considering the share of British product has increased in the retail sector.

Breakfast is the meal in foodservice which has seen the biggest growth in pork volumes compared to last year. An additional 14.8m kg of pork was sold in breakfasts in the last year, most of which will be bacon or sausages. This supports the growth seen in imports, as the bacon and sausage categories have seen the largest growth year on year, up 26% and 23% respectively.

Looking ahead, it is likely imported volumes of pork to the UK will continue to grow if demand is sustained alongside declining production. In the June Defra survey, the English pig breeding herd fell 18% year on year. This paired with the ongoing cost pressures faced by producers means it is unlikely we will see a quick recovery in pig numbers, limiting the number of animals that will be available for slaughter.

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