UK pork exports pick up in February

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High levels of domestic production in February helped boost UK pork exports by 10% compared to year earlier levels.

According to HMRC, fresh/frozen pork exports reached 17,500 tonnes during the month. However, lower average unit prices led to a more modest 6% value increase, reaching £22.5 million.

The growth in volume terms was driven by an increase in shipments to other EU member states, which were up by 13% (+1,200 tonnes). Sales to Denmark, the Netherlands and Poland increased in particular, with much of this product likely to be re-exported. The narrowing gap between UK and EU pig prices during the month may have aided pork trade within Europe.

The international market was more mixed. Exports to China declined 8% (-260 tonnes) and Hong Kong shipments were down 15% (-124 tonnes). Nonetheless, other global markets increased; volume shipments to the US grew by nearly a third on the year (+105 tonnes) and trade with the Philippines (+244 tonnes) and South Korea (+115 tonnes) more than doubled. In contrast to last year, around 25% of pork exports to the US consisted fresh/chilled rather than frozen product during February. This boosted the value of pork exports to the US by almost 50% (+£965,000), which helped support the value of UK pork exports overall.

In contrast to fresh/frozen pork, offal exports recorded strong growth on the year during February to both China (+9%, +221 tonnes) and Hong Kong (+29%, +442 tonnes). Offal exports performed well in general; trade within the EU also grew by almost a third (+379 tonnes) meaning overall volumes were up 19%. In value terms, lower prices meant pig offal exports were worth 7% more than a year earlier at £6.7 million.

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HMRC import data suggests the UK imported 13% less pork than last year during February. Lower shipments were recorded from most key suppliers, including Denmark, Germany and Spain. While doubts persist over the accuracy of the Danish import figures in particular, lower import levels seem likely given the high domestic production levels during Q1. In addition, the Danish, German and Spanish export figures also show a decline in shipments to the UK during January. As average prices have been lower, the value of UK pork imports was 17% lower than 2017 during the month, at £56.7 million.

Bacon imports continued to decline, reflecting a move towards processing more bacon in the UK. However, the reported 44% decline in shipments from Denmark so far this year may be somewhat overstated.

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Bethan Wilkins, Analyst

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