Have Danish pork imports really expanded?

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According to HMRC data published by Global Trade Atlas (hereafter GTA/HMRC), imports of Danish pork to the UK grew by a substantial 73% on the year during 2016, almost reaching 170,000 tonnes shipped weight (sw).

However, the extent of this growth has been called into question, with the official Danish export figures only showing a relatively modest 10% growth on the year. So, how much Danish pork has really been landing on UK shores and are the volumes an increasing threat to British producers?

The growth in shipments received from Denmark according to GTA/HMRC figures seems unrealistic when compared to Danish pig meat production during 2016. According to Eurostat, Danish production was 2% back on the previous year. So, assuming no dramatic downturn in domestic consumption occurred, it seems doubtful that Denmark actually produced sufficient pork to fulfil the GTA/HMRC figures. The import growth is also surprising due to due to the weakness of sterling reducing the competitiveness of imported product in the latter half of 2016.

So what might be the cause of this increase in the GTA/HMRC Danish pork import figures? Around two-thirds of the annual growth is attributable to fresh/chilled bone-in hams/shoulder cuts, which comprise over half of the total product imported. Proportionally, however, more growth was seen from the “not elsewhere specified or indicated” pork category and in particular boneless cuts (excluding bellies).

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Despite the confusion, Danish industry sources suggest that, in reality, there was only a small increase in pork shipments to the UK last year while bacon shipments have shown a decline. This conforms to the trends reported in the Danish exports data.

While the source of the increase in GTA/HMRC figures remains unclear at present, it does seem clear that this increase does not reflect the reality of the situation This highlights the importance of interpreting trade data with caution and in the context of other market signals, to ensure a coherent overall picture is drawn. AHDB will be further investigating this matter, with the aim of ultimately clarifying the issue.

To read more about the difficulties with the GTA/HMRC imports figures, click here.

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Bethan Wilkins, Analyst

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