What’s behind the steep decline in meat exports?
Following the FDF’s Trade Snapshot for H1 2023, we took a closer look at the figures for meat exports which are down considerably by volume from the same period last year.
The loss in volume reflects the difficulties of Brexit and the added red tape and cost it brings with our nearest market. This is demonstrated by the fact that, even though values have increased mainly due to inflation, the volume of red meat exported has never recovered to pre-Brexit levels.
Trade is starting to stabilise and, in order to maintain export levels, the larger processors have had to adapt by sending consolidated loads and whole carcasses to be processed once in the EU. As predicted, this is hitting SMEs the hardest and many are finding that exporting to the EU is now simply unviable.
There could be several reasons for the change in export value between pork and beef. For beef there’s been a reduction in demand on the continent at the same time as increased costs of exporting. At the same time the UK cattle price has risen to become less competitive.
Pork production is down both in the EU and the UK, and while consumption is down as well, it hasn’t fallen as much as production, so demand is still there, and prices are holding up. AHDB estimated that 40,000 sows had been lost from the UK breeding herd over the past year.
It is difficult to predict what will happen in the future as it depends on decisions made by government. I can’t imagine anything changing by the end of the year but what we need is for the government to take a pragmatic approach and look at an SPS alignment with the EU. This would have two main benefits. It would resolve our trade friction with the EU but also get rid of all the problems around the Northern Ireland Protocol.