Exports of fresh and frozen beef saw an increase of 18 per cent from January to August this year, with sheepmeat exports up 20 per cent year-on-year, according to the latest market analysis by Quality Meat Scotland.
Stuart Ashworth, QMS director of economic services, said among all the Brexit ‘confusion’, the first two-thirds of 2019 had been a positive period for the UK’s red meat exporters.
Year-on-year growth had, however, only been achieved by trading at a lower price as the value of beef exports had only grown 3 per cent, while sheepmeat exports grew 8 per cent by value.
Mr Ashworth said: “The European market still dominates, with 82 per cent of beef and 96 per cent of sheepmeat going to Europe.”
UK customs data also shows a decline in beef and sheepmeat imports during 2019.
The volume of beef imported between January and August 2019 was 11 per cent less than the same period in 2018, while sheepmeat imports fell 18 per cent.
Mr Ashworth added: “Similar to export activity, Europe was the source of 96 per cent of beef imports with Ireland alone being the source of just more than 80 per cent of all beef deliveries – a slightly higher proportion than in 2018.
“Nevertheless, so far this year Ireland has supplied 6 per cent less beef to the UK than it did last year, the majority of the reduction being in frozen beef.
“The decline in deliveries has been higher from other countries, for example Poland which sent 13 per cent less beef.”
Sheepmeat imports so far this year have fallen 18 per cent.
New Zealand remains the dominant supplier with 63 per cent of this year’s deliveries coming from there.
“Adjusting the volume of beef and sheepmeat produced in UK abattoirs for change in trade patterns suggests 3 per cent less beef and 2 per cent less sheepmeat has been available for use in the UK market so far this year,” said Mr Ashworth.
“While this may suggest that producer prices should have strengthened, the fact that export prices have reduced in an effort to balance the market points to a very price sensitive and essentially well-supplied domestic market.”