Sheep export success raises hopes

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Sheep meat exports from the UK are at their highest for more than decade, according to new industry figures.

For the first time since 1999, total shipments of fresh and frozen sheep meat broke the 100,000-tonne milestone last year, according to Revenue and Customs figures, EBLEX said.

Altogether some 103,176 tonnes were exported, up nine per cent on the year before, with growth in both EU and non-EU markets.

Jonathan Eckley, export marketing executive at EBLEX, said: “Exports of sheep meat from the UK last year were very encouraging, with significant increases in both volume and value to EU and non-EU markets. With shipments to non-EU markets part of EBLEX’s ongoing export strategy, the figures for trade with Hong Kong and Ghana were particularly pleasing.”

Led by demand from Hong Kong, exports to non-EU markets experienced the most significant increases on the year, with the volume up 44 per cent at 17,637 tonnes. Seventy-eight per cent more UK sheep meat was exported to Hong Kong last year, with the value rising by 105 per cent.

Volumes to Ghana, where EBLEX conducted a trade mission with a group of UK exporters in the autumn, were up 134 per cent on the year at just over 1,000 tonnes, with the value of those exports increasing 95 per cent.

Mr Eckley added: “Scandinavia is another high-value market, with Norway being the notable success story in 2013. Shipments to Norway were up 25 per cent, with the value of those rising 31 per cent. Volumes to Denmark also increased 50 per cent, with a 44 per cent rise in value.

“However, it’s important not to overlook the continuing importance and significance of EU export markets. France remains, by far, our major export destination for sheep meat, while shipments to Germany and Belgium also recorded higher volumes.”

The overall export story for sheep meat in 2013 was very positive, he said.

Phil Stocker, chief executive of the National Sheep Association, said the increased exports were expected but very much welcome.

“Growth of affluent populations in China has increased demand on a global level, pulling supplies of imported lamb away from more traditional markets and creating market opportunities for us. We would expect our sales to grow in markets where we already have a foothold, such as France, but new and emerging markets too. This does mean the UK market needs to wake up to the fact it’s going to have to do more to secure supplies of quality product in the future.”

Richard Findlay, chairman of the North East’s livestock board at the National Farmers’ Union, said he felt reassured that farmers’ levy payments to EBLEX were being invested wisely.

“It gives a degree of optimism, not just for the short-term but for the long-term for those growing, emerging markets. EBLEX has invested a lot of money from our levy payments in the last few years and so it’s great this investment is starting to bear fruit.”

Mr Stocker added that the lamb price is holding up quite well there is nothing to suggest much of a dip any time soon.

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