Meat & Livestock News

UK Beef and Lamb Trade Update: August Sees Rise in Sheep Meat Imports

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The latest trade data for UK beef and lamb for the month of August has been released by HMRC, revealing some noteworthy trends in both imports and exports.

Sheep Meat Imports Experience Unprecedented Rise

For the first time in 2023, the UK has seen an uptick in sheep meat imports, registering a total of 4,300 tonnes in August. This marks a significant increase compared to the same period last year. The driving force behind this surge appears to be the competitive pricing from Australia and New Zealand.

Contrary to traditional seasonal patterns, the UK’s sheep meat imports have been on a steady incline since January this year. Although there was a minor increase in March to meet Easter demand, it was less significant than in previous years.

Despite this year-long upward trajectory, it wasn’t until August that import levels broke historical lows. The last time the UK saw higher imports of Australian lamb in August was in 2014.

The competitive pricing from Oceania is noteworthy. Australia is currently exporting record volumes of sheep meat, exerting downward pressure on their farmgate prices.

This trend has also impacted New Zealand lamb values, even though their production has remained relatively stable compared to last year.

Beef Imports Hold Steady, Irish Market Gains Momentum

On the other hand, the UK’s beef imports have remained fairly consistent, closely aligning with the levels observed in 2022.

However, a notable exception has been the increase in Irish beef imports during the summer. This is largely attributed to a decline in Irish beef prices, which have become increasingly competitive, particularly due to weaker continental demand.

As of the week ending on 2 October, Irish R3 steers were trading at an 89p discount compared to GB steers, a price gap not seen since November 2015.

Market Dynamics and What Lies Ahead

The domestic lamb market has been robust throughout the year, with reduced imports and increased exports in the first half bolstering strong farmgate prices.

However, the recent uptick in imports, coinciding with a season of heightened domestic production, has led to an increase in market supplies.

In the beef sector, the UK has generally maintained its premium position in the European market this year. However, it has lost some ground in EU beef imports, particularly to competitors like Brazil and Argentina, who have ramped up production.

Monitoring these ongoing trends in both sheep meat and beef imports will be crucial, as they hold significant implications for domestic market prices and supply levels.