Red meat trade bonus hopes as EU livestock numbers shrink

Early year beef export figures are up- and there could be more to come as latest statistics indicate an internal decline in EU red meat production, according to Hybu Cig Cymru-Meat Promotion Wales’ (HCC).

During quarter one, Britain exported 27,150 tonnes of beef, up 3.7 per cent on year earlier figures, with the value of exports up 0.7 per cent. 85 per cent went to the EU, with non-EU countries receiving 66 per cent more and Hong Kong seeing a huge 84 per cent increase on year earlier figures.

Lamb exports also had a healthy increase in January and February and only fell in March due to increases in domestic demand; nevertheless, export value in quarter one up was 13 per cent and volumes were higher than both 2021 and 2022.

“These figures, from HMRC, are very encouraging and it seems beef production, according to a EU Commission report, is expected to drop by 2.3 per cent in 2024, due to the internal structural adjustments of the suckler and dairy herd”, said Elizabeth Swancott, Hybu Cig Cymru-Meat Promotion Wales’ (HCC) Market Intelligence, Research & Development Senior Officer.

This follows a 2.8 per cent decline in production in 2023, when the suckler numbers dropped by 160,000 head and the dairy herd by 344,000 head. EU sheep meat production has also dropped by five per cent following a longer-term scaling down- amounting to a reduction of 6 million head since 2019.

“While it’s always difficult to gainsay the marketplace, any supply shortfalls offer potential opportunities for further UK exports to a major trading partner. Alongside these positive beef opportunities, sheepmeat has scope with low availability, and resultant high prices, predicted to result in a 2.5 per cent increase in exports to the EU throughout 2024”, said Elizabeth.

She said underlying trends reflect a tight supply of lambs in all marketplaces, with less British lambs available for export and more lamb staying on the domestic market because of high demand in March. “This was aided by the religious festivals of Easter, Eid al-Fitr and Ramadan, when lamb is traditionally eaten”, explained Elizabeth.

“Our largest trade partner in terms of exports- France- received an additional 13 per cent supply from Britain on the year; a good sign for upcoming trade, as France now takes over half of total export volume with around 54 per cent”, said Elizabeth.