Tight supplies put a brake on UK pork exports but imports up significantly

UK exports of fresh and frozen pork during March were 3% down on the year while imports rose by a massive 47% on the back of continuing tight domestic supplies, according to the latest data from HMRC.

The fall in export volumes to 19,100 tonnes highlights the tight supply situation of both clean pigs and sows the UK has found itself in domestically since the start of the year, AHDB Pork said.

However, export demand is thought to be relatively strong and while volume was down, the value of shipments in March was 26% higher compared to the same period in 2016, at £27.1 million, driven by a rise in unit prices.

Although China remained the largest destination for British pork, the amount shipped in March fell by 6% year on year to 3,900 tonnes. Likewise, exports to the UK’s fifth largest destination, the Netherlands, fell by 10% on the year to 1,400 tonnes. Nevertheless in March, the UK exported 7% more pork to both Ireland (at 3,200 tonnes) and Denmark (at 2,700 tonnes) and 6% more to Germany (at 3,000 tonnes), compared to the same period in 2016.

UK export volumes of offal, processed pork and sausages were all lower year on year in March, while shipments of bacon increased.

Tight supplies continue to drive the domestic pig price, with the SPP rising for the 11th consecutive week last week to reach 158.45p/kg, 43p/kg higher than a year ago.

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Imports of fresh/frozen pork increased once again on the year in March, by 47%, to 44,500 tonnes. Similar to recent months the majority of the increase came from a 125% rise in shipments from Denmark to 18,300 tonnes. Doubts remain though over the validity of the figures indicating the rise, as Danish export figures have not been portraying the same trend, AHDB Pork said.

However, volumes imported from Germany, the Netherlands, Spain and Ireland all rose, which would suggest an overall rise in imports of pork in March and yet the average import price was up 23% on March last year. This is likely to have been driven, once again by the tight domestic supply situation we have seen since the start of the year.

Imports of bacon, sausages, processed pork and offal to the UK were also all higher in March, compared to the same period in 2016.

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About The Author

Editor of Pig World and contributor to LBM’s other farming publications. Also National Pig Association webmaster. Formerly political editor at Farmers Guardian for many years. Enjoy a bit of media punditry. Brought up on a Leicestershire farm. Work from a shed in the garden in Oxfordshire. Under-9 football coach and big fan of Leicester City and Leicester Tigers. Occasional cricketer.