The UK pork export market weakened slightly in February, with shipments down 1% on the previous year at 14,000t, according the latest HMRC trade statistics.
The first year-on-year decline since July 2012, this was largely a result of lower supplies to Asian countries, while the decline was somewhat offset by a 7% increase in exports to EU markets.
The largest share was shipped to Germany, where trade fell by 2% on the year. Exports to other key EU markets also declined, including Ireland (down 2%) and Denmark (down 5%).
However, these falls were more than offset by rises to smaller EU markets such as The Netherlands, Italy, Belgium and France.
Outside the EU, UK pork exports to China and Hong Kong declined by 18% and 22% year on year respectively.
Offal exports in February more than halved, down to 2,600t, mainly due to lower shipments to EU markets, which have struggled for a number of months. From 3,800t last February, supplies to the Continent fell to 900t, down 76% year on year.
However, exports to China remained strong, being up 23%, and supplies to Hong Kong were at similar levels to 2013.
The HMRC figures also show that UK pork imports in February strengthened by 6% on the year to 25,900t. The increase was largely a consequence of higher supplies from Germany, up 22% compared with the same month in 2013.
In addition, increases were recorded from some smaller suppliers, including France and Spain.
BPEX market intelligence suggests that higher imports in the latest month perhaps indicate that some UK buyers took advantage of the large gap between the EU and UK prices, particularly after the ASF cases in Poland and Lithuania.
However, Denmark, as the primary supplier, reduced trade with the UK by 4% year-on-year. Less product was also imported from The Netherlands (down 9%) and Ireland (down 4%).
Bacon imports were marginally down on a year earlier at 19,900t, although Danish and Dutch supplies were both up by 7%.
Processed ham imports were higher by 6%, despite shipments from Ireland, the leading supplier, falling by 8%. Similarly, sausage imports were up 7% year on year.