Supplies still suppressing UK exports

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UK exports of fresh/frozen pork remained behind year earlier levels in April, at 18.6 thousand tonnes.

This was 7% lower than the same period in 2016, although this still represented a 27% increase on 2015. Increased average unit prices also meant the value of UK pork exports was 9% higher year-on-year, at £24.1 million. This was helped by higher European pig prices compared to a year earlier, alongside the weakness of the pound which minimises any price rises in the currency of importing nations.

European shipments were largely responsible for driving the overall decline in export volumes. In particular, lower sow slaughterings this year led to a notable decrease in exports to Germany, with volumes down on the year by almost a third. Shipments to Ireland, the Netherlands and Sweden also posted declines, although there was a modest increase in exports to Denmark (+8%) compared to the same month last year.

Nonetheless, shipments to China continued to increase during April, reaching 4.5 thousand tonnes which was 17% higher than a year earlier. This meant exports to China occupied almost a quarter of the total export market volume during the month. UK pork must be competing successfully on the Chinese market, given their import volumes were actually behind year earlier levels during April. With Chinese import demand reported to be slowing, the success of UK exports to this market for the rest of 2017 remains to be seen.

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Offal exports did see some decline in shipments to both China and Hong Kong compared to a year earlier. These destinations account for nearly 60% of UK offal shipments, and so overall exports fell 14% year-on-year to 6.1 thousand tonnes.

Fresh/frozen pork import volumes continued to climb on the year during April; rising 22% to 36 thousand tonnes. Contrary to previous months, the increase was not primarily driven by rising Danish shipments, which were only a relatively modest 7% higher year-on-year. Instead, increasing shipments from other European countries was key. Imports from Germany showed particularity strong growth compared to April 2016. This may be related to the takeover by Tonnies of Tican. As a result de-boning and bacon processing of pig meat for the UK market has been transferred from Denmark to plants in Germany and the UK. The logistical change was originally announced last year.

Bacon imports, the second largest imported pig meat product by volume, declined 17% in April compared to a year earlier. This was driven by falling shipments from both Germany and Denmark, again possibly reflecting the move towards importing more pig meat as pork and processing it into bacon in the UK.

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Bethan Wilkins, Analyst

bethan.wilkins@ahdb.org.uk, 024 7647 8757