Meat fares well in annual export data

UK lamb was in the top 10 performing export product categories, with growth of 8%, to £383m, during 2013, according to the Food and Drink Federation’s (FDF) annual export figures.

The total meat category saw exports up 4% to £1.7bn.

The value of lamb exports to France increased by £15m to £214m – figures which echo those recently announced by Eblex, which put export volumes to France at 11,350 tonnes (t) in 2013, with the growth largely driven by increased shipments of boneless product.

The value of pork exports to Denmark increased by £5m, while outside the EU, both lamb exports to Hong Kong (+106%), and pork exports to China (+92%) were up around £10m.

Last month Bpex revealed that more pork was exported in 2013 than in any year since 2000. It put total exports at more than £325m, with the biggest single market China.

Two categories to see a decline in exports were beef, which was down 4% to £372m and prepared meats, which saw exports fall £21m, despite a 62% increase in exports to South Africa.

Peter Hardwick, international manager, Bpex, said that while Germany was the single major export market for UK pigmeat, rapidly overtaking other countries are China and Hong Kong, which combined were an even bigger market than Germany, with almost 40,000t exported there last year, compared to 30,000t in 2012.

"That 25% increase is mainly down to a doubling of exports to China – with exports increasing from 11,000t in 2012 to 25,000t last year – as a consequence of the work we’ve done opening these markets," he said. "Whatever is happening in terms of the economic cycle there, the rate at which they are importing meat and meat products is impressive, and it’s not just pork."

He added: "What is missing, in terms of where China is concerned, is that at the moment we are still not able to export trotters to that market. It is estimated that pigs’ feet may represent as much as 30-40% of the total trade, so if we were to have access to that market we see those volumes to China go up even more. It is a major opportunity, and an issue on which we are trying to negotiate with the Chinese at the moment."

He said Bpex was also trying to get approval for two additional plants, in Northern Ireland, to export pigmeat to China. Currently only five are approved for export, which are all in England.

Hardwick added: "We have also seen some recovery to export markets such as Japan in recent years," he said, adding that it was a much smaller export market. "We have also started to open markets in Africa, and have done a lot of work in West and Southern Africa," he said. "We’ve seen exports to the Ivory Coast more than double in the past 12 months.

"European markets are very important to us, but most are relatively mature. To really see significant growth, we really need to tap into new markets."

Total UK food and non-alcoholic drink exports grew by 5% to £12.8bn in 2013. Growth in exports to the EU 28 were up 3%, while exports outside the EU increased by 11.5%.

Steve Barnes, economic and commercial services director, said: "In contrast to UK goods exports falling in 2013, food and drink exports are back in growth, testament to the strong demand for quality British food and drink and the growing importance of exports to our industry.

"The recovery of exports to key EU markets is particularly welcome news for food and drinks manufacturers as exports to the EU 28 account for 75% of total export sales. We will continue to help exporters overcome barriers and inspire new businesses to start exporting as part of our 20/20 Vision for sustainable growth."

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