Are pork shipments to the UK still rising?

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National trade data from the UK’s top seven suppliers of fresh/frozen pork suggest shipments to the UK were 2% higher year on year during the first three quarters of 2017. Growth was present throughout the year, with volumes during Q3 just over 1% up on 2016.

The continued growth in shipments of pork to the UK contrasts with official HMRC data, which suggests UK pork import volumes fell 5% on a year earlier during Q3. UK imports and pork export volumes from our partner trading countries have traditionally followed the same trend, albeit with different absolute volumes. However, since mid-2016 this has been changing as can be seen below:

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While it initially appeared UK import volumes were moving in line with export volumes recorded by our key suppliers, HMRC recorded volumes have fallen away again in recent months. More detail on this can be found in the October Outlook for UK Pig Meat Supplies.

In the third quarter of 2017, UK production is now estimated at around 222 thousand tonnes, fractionally higher than year earlier levels. This is lower than previous figures, and hence the demand for imported product may have been higher than previously anticipated. With EU pig prices declining significantly in the final quarter, import pressure may have increased further in the final quarter. Recent anecdotal reports have referred to increasing competition from cheaper imported pork.

Looking forwards, it will be interesting to see how UK import volumes play out. Increasing UK supplies could deter any further increase in imports, especially as the currently declining UK price trend may begin to narrow the gap between the UK and the EU. How UK production develops, and the relative competitiveness of imported pork will remain crucial, with demand for EU pork internationally likely being a key factor influencing prices.

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Bethan Wilkins, Analyst

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