Meat & Livestock News

UK Pork Imports Rise as Domestic Production Slows

The UK pork industry is experiencing a notable increase in imports, a trend driven by lower domestic production and attractive prices in the European Union. This growth is evident both monthly and annually.

Import Dynamics

In November, the UK imported 71,300 tonnes of pig meat, marking an increase of 1,200 tonnes from October. This growth represents the fourth consecutive month of rising imports. Year-on-year, there’s an increase of 1,000 tonnes. From January to November, total pig meat imports reached 720,100 tonnes, a slight 2% decrease (-18,100 tonnes) compared to the same period in 2022.

The largest growth in imports was seen in fresh/frozen pork, with an 11% increase (3,000 tonnes) in November. On the other hand, sausage imports decreased by 1,000 tonnes (-7%), and bacon imports dropped by 900 tonnes (-5%). Processed meat imports saw a modest 3% decline compared to last year.

The rise in import volumes is linked to several factors. The UK’s pig population is at a decade low, leading to reduced domestic production. Additionally, declining European pig reference prices have made EU imports more appealing. Retail volume purchases have decreased by 2.2% for the 12 weeks ending 26 November 2023, but the food service sector has seen a 7.2% increase, boosting demand for imported products.

Export Trends

UK pig meat exports in November totalled 27,600 tonnes, a 4% decrease (-1,200 tonnes) compared to the same month last year. The year-to-date exports (January-November) reached 275,900 tonnes, one of the lowest volumes in eight years, and 19% lower (-65,700 tonnes) than the previous year.

In November, all product categories except fresh/frozen pork, which increased by 600 tonnes, saw year-on-year declines. Offal shipments experienced the most significant drop, decreasing by 9% to 11,700 tonnes. Bacon exports fell by 600 tonnes (36%), while sausages and processed meat recorded minor changes. China, a major buyer of offal, has seen a recent uptick in exports but remains below previous years’ levels.

Total exports to China in November were 10,800 tonnes, accounting for 39% of total export volumes, a nearly 300 tonnes (2%) decrease from the previous year. Exports to EU-27 destinations fell by 1,100 to 12,000 tonnes in November compared to a year ago, with the Netherlands and France experiencing the largest declines.

The reduction in domestic production is a significant factor behind these changes. The price gap between the UK and EU continues to affect the competitiveness of UK products in the EU market. Consumer caution and the supply dynamics in major exporting regions will be key factors moving into 2024.