Highest pork exports since 1998 in 2017

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Exports of fresh/frozen pork increased by a further 5% in 2017, reaching 216,000 tonnes. As global export prices were also higher, the increase in value terms was even stronger, growing 16% year-on-year to stand at £293.5 million.

In contrast to the previous year, growth was particularly driven by a 6% increase (+7,800 tonnes) in shipments within the EU. Exports to Denmark rose by around a third (+7,900 tonnes), with this product likely intended for re-export. However, China, the main driver of export growth in 2016, remained the largest single country market. These export volumes actually grew a modest 1% year-on-year (+300 tonnes), which is particularly positive given that overall Chinese pork imports declined by 25% in 2017. For December alone, UK pork exports to China also returned to growth (+3% year-on-year), having been trending lower for the past few months.

Looking at smaller markets, shipments to Hong Kong rebounded after a decline in 2016, with volumes up 9% year-on-year (+1,000 tonnes). Shipments to the Philippines also recorded 40% growth (+1,300 tonnes), while volumes to South Korea increased 21% (+300 tonnes) on 2016 levels.

2017 was also a good year for offal exports, with volumes increasing 6% on the previous year. A 10% decline in shipments to China, the primary destination, was more than compensated for by increasing shipments to Hong Kong and a number of smaller markets. These include the Philippines, Denmark, the Ivory Coast and Japan.

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Imports of fresh/frozen pork officially totalled 460,000 tonnes during 2017, which was 5% higher than year earlier levels, and almost a quarter above 2015. German imports in particular grew 17% compared with 2016, reaching over 80,000 tonnes. Shipments from the Netherlands, Spain and Ireland also increased by 8% (+4,000 tonnes), 7% (+2,500 tonnes) and 20% (+6,400) respectively.

While some modest growth in import volumes is reasonable, concerns remain over whether the absolute volumes are realistic. Danish imports remained elevated at 170,000 thousand tonnes for the year, which is almost 75% higher than the 2015 volume.

Looking at other products, bacon imports dropped back a notable 9% year-on-year to 220,000 tonnes. This was primarily driven by a 37% decline in shipments from Denmark, to only 58,000 tonnes. Denmark is therefore no longer the UK’s primary supplier of bacon and has been overtaken by the Netherlands. The decline in shipments reflects a move towards producing more bacon within the UK, which is more cost effective.

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Bethan Wilkins, Analyst

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