Meat & Livestock News

Trends in Beef and Lamb Trade: Seasonal Demands and Export Shifts

TL;DR:  In February, sheep meat imports and beef exports from the UK saw significant changes. The Southern Hemisphere capitalised on competitive pricing, while promotional efforts aimed to boost lamb consumption in the EU and expand beef markets in Hong Kong.

Sheep Meat Imports Surge

In February, total sheep meat imports soared to 5,250 tonnes, a significant 34% increase from January and 45% up from the previous year. This marks the highest import volume for February since 2017, primarily driven by robust orders from New Zealand. The upcoming Easter period saw a sharp rise in demand, particularly for leg roasting joints, which saw nearly a 24% increase compared to last year.

Southern Hemisphere Dominates

Imports from the Southern Hemisphere, particularly New Zealand and Australia, showed notable growth in February. New Zealand’s imports rose by approximately 840 tonnes, and Australia’s by 600 tonnes compared to January. This trend underscores the global price advantages that Southern Hemisphere producers hold over UK and EU competitors.

UK Sheep Meat Exports

UK exports of sheep meat, both fresh and frozen, totalled 6,420 tonnes in February. Despite a slight drop from January, this represents an increase of 110 tonnes over February of the previous year. Lamb carcasses, making up 78% of these exports, saw a reduction from January but an overall annual increase.

EU Market Dynamics

The EU-27 continues to be a critical market for UK sheep meat exports, absorbing 6,000 tonnes in February alone. France remains a key player, purchasing over half of the UK’s exports. Despite price fluctuations, demand remains steady, supported by targeted promotional efforts in France to boost lamb consumption among younger demographics.

Beef Import and Export Fluctuations

Total beef imports, encompassing both fresh and frozen products, declined to 19,700 tonnes in February, marking an 18% decrease from January but still showing growth from the previous year. The largest category, boneless fresh beef, experienced a drop from the previous month yet maintained year-on-year growth.

Irish beef remains a significant portion of imports, totalling 16,000 tonnes in February. Despite a monthly decrease, there was a substantial annual increase, with projections suggesting a continued decline in Irish beef production through 2024.

Beef Exports and Market Opportunities

UK total beef exports saw a slight increase in February, with a promising growth in exports to Hong Kong. This market, driven by rising food service demands, is being actively targeted by promotional campaigns to showcase British red meat products, reflecting a strategic move to capitalise on growing international markets.

The dynamics of the beef and lamb trade continue to evolve with significant shifts in export destinations and robust seasonal demands. The Southern Hemisphere’s competitive pricing and the strategic marketing efforts in the EU and Asian markets are pivotal in shaping the future landscape of this industry.