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Critical cocktail hits UK lamb exports

Screen Shot 2016-05-09 at 10.30.37A CRITICAL cocktail of low consumer purchasing power, punitive exchange rates, cheap imports and supply surfeits forced UK lamb exports to dip by nearly a quarter in the last twelve months, reports Hybu Cig Cymru-Meat Promotion Wales’ (HCC) latest edition of Market Bulletin.

Sheepmeat exports during 2015 were significantly impeded by the strength of Sterling against the Euro, as well as cheaper imports from other countries and subdued consumer demand for lamb.

This sent UK sheepmeat exports falling to 79,400 tonnes, a decline of 22 per cent, some 22,500 tonnes less in twelve months.

The Eurozone accounts for nineteen in every twenty sheepmeat export sales and, with shoppers in general feeling the pinch, most European countries recorded reduced shipments. France, which accounts for 54 per cent of the market, witnessed a 16 per cent decline and exports to Germany, Ireland and Belgium fell two per cent, ten per cent and 11 per cent respectively.

Imports of sheepmeat to the UK during 2015 rose by 0.3 per cent to 92,800 tonnes, attributed to an increase in shipments received from New Zealand of six per cent to 68,800 tonnes, amounting to nearly threequarters of all imports. Although New Zealand sheepmeat production fell during 2015, imports to the UK increased as other key markets, in particular China, took smaller quantities due to reduced demand. Other imports to the UK declined, with Australia, Ireland, Spain and France witnessing volume declines of three per cent, 19 per cent, 14 per cent and 23 per cent respectively.

The timing of these imports took its toll on the UK market and was a major contributory factor to the increase during the year.

In 2015, the UK imported more beef than it exported – 268,400 tonnes of beef, five per cent up on 2014, as UK exports fell by ten per cent to 100,500 tonnes. The dominance of Ireland as the main importer of beef to the UK has grown in recent years accounting for 182,400 tonnes, 68 per cent of the total volume of beef imported.

The second largest beef importer to the UK is the Netherlands, some way behind Ireland with eight per cent of all volume at 20,400 tonnes, a rise of 21 per cent on 2014 and underlining how the strength of Sterling against the Euro underpinned all European imports.

UK beef export shipments to other member states during 2015 varied with exports to the Netherlands, Italy, Belgium and Germany declining whilst those to France increased three per cent to 10,100 tonnes.

Looking forward, HCC expects exports of red meat market from the UK for the coming year to continue to be influenced strongly by the Sterling’s exchange rate with the Euro. If the estimated reductions in volumes of lamb from New Zealand transpire, it could be beneficial to the domestic market, but any optimism is guarded with the global marketplace demonstrating considerable volatility, making the future import and export performance of both species notoriously difficult to predict.

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Dayne Stone

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