UK beef and pork prices up thanks surge in exports

Average wholesale prices of beef and pork have increased markedly over the last few months, driven by growth in exports and a spike in summer meat consumption. 

Beef in the UK has fought off past volatility to see prices increase steadily since May, according to research company Mintec. Beef prices have been supported by a rise in demand for frozen primal beef cuts exported to Hong Kong and Ireland. Increased intake from these two nations helped UK beef export volumes increase by 4% year-on-year to 8,300 tonnes (t) in May. 

Pork prices have also increased, driven by blistering export growth in China. UK pork exports to all countries increased by 26% year on year to 18,400t during June. Exports to China during the same month climbed by 81%, according to Mintec. This represented the sixth consecutive month of growth for UK pork exports to China, with offal shipments accounting for over 50% of all UK by-product trade. Offal exports to China increased by 11% year-on-year.

Mintec pointed to a spike in the rise of people cooking meat on the barbecue during the summer. Waitrose earlier reported a 41% increase in sales of barbecue meat for the week ending 7 May, 2016.

While pork and beef have enjoyed a strong performance over the summer, lamb has laboured. The average price of UK lamb dropped in August thanks to a rise in slaughtering mixed with another drop in exports. Trade fell by 14% year-on-year in June 2016 to 6,500t. This was mainly driven by a fall in exports to France, a key UK market, mixed with further devaluation of the pound against the Euro.

AHDB Beef and Lamb issued a note of caution over the rise in beef prices, warning that producers may opt to increase culling rates due to headwinds in the dairy sector and the onset of winter, which could put pressure back on beef prices in the short-term future.

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