Higher meat prices drive up exports.

The value of UK meat exports increased by 15% to almost £800m in 2010, according to a new report by the Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board (AHDB).

The growth has been driven by higher prices of pork and sheep meat, as well as an increase in the amount of pork and beef exported.

Beef exports have grown by 25% to £321m since 2009. It now accounts for 41% of the value of all exports, overtaking sheep meat. However, the increase is entirely due to higher volumes as unit prices fell over the period. More UK beef was diverted to the export market in 2010 as domestic demand remained subdued and imports rose.

Although the volume of sheep meat exports fell by 7%, the tight supplies and rising unit price meant that the overall value rose 1% to £320 million. Meanwhile pork also saw a 2% rise in unit price, which combined with a 28% increase in volume, pushed fresh and frozen exports to £151 million, with bacon exports up 15% over the same period.

Overall the UK remains a net red meat importer, with pork and bacon taking the largest share. Pork consumption has grown by 15% over the last 15 years and in 2010 the UK imported 230,000t more pork and 290,00t more bacon than it exported. Beef imports are up 3%, with Ireland rising to supply 0% of UK beef imports in 2010. However fresh and frozen sheep meat saw a fall in import of 13% to 100,000t.

The AHDB report said: “The volume of exports has fallen less than imports due to tight global supplies, particularly from New Zealand. Combined with subdued domestic consumption, demand from the Continent has led to a higher proportion of domestic production being diverted to the export market.”

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