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Asian ASF crisis continues to drive strong UK pork exports

21st Jan 2020 / By Alistair Driver

UK pork exports continued to grow at the end of last year on the back of increased demand from China. 

Figures from AHDB also show UK pig production reached a 20-year high last year. 

UK pork exportsUK exports Nov

Overall pork shipments were up by 13% year-on-year in November to reach a record for the month of 22,400, albeit slightly down on October.

Shipments to China accounted for more than half of this, reaching nearly 10,800 tonnes in November, more than double the volume year-on-year, as has been the case since March. In fact, AHDB figures show that pork exports to China during the first 10 months of the year topped 63,000 tonnes, compared with 32,000 during the same period in 2018. 

The average price of exports continued to escalate during November. Shipments to China were worth £2.18/kg on average. For comparison, pork imported to the UK during the month was only a little more expensive at £2.36/kg, and this was 30% higher than the year before.

UK exports Nov price

In contrast, offal exports have come down 6% from November 2018. This largely reflects lower shipments to Hong Kong.

"It remains plausible that some traditional offal exports are now being exported to China as part of pork shipments. More pork is being drawn to the Chinese market, which requires minimal processing. If less processing is underway, this could reduce the production of offal products on their own," AHDB senior analyst Bethan Wilkins said. 

UK processors are certainly enjoying the benefits. Cranswick announced last week that its profits during the current financial year are set to exceed expectations on the back of increased sales in Far East Asia to fill the ASF gap.

Imports

The AHDB figures also show that, during November, the volume of pork imported to the UK decreased by 22% compared with November 2018.

"The decline in imports generally escalated as 2019 progressed, with shipments only down 2% for the 11 months overall. Considering the relatively high price of imported pork, imports would be expected to fall back," Ms Wilkins said. 

UK production

AHDB figures also show that UK pork production totalled 959,600 tonnes in 2019, 3.4% higher than the previous year and the highest figure since 1999.

pig production

Productivity was well up at the end of the year - UK clean pig slaughter reached 934,400 head in December, 12% more than December 2018.

December 2019 had one more weekday compared to the previous year. However, many major processors likely worked additional days in the run-up to both Christmas and Chinese New Year, AHDB's Felicity Rusk said. 

Finished pig carcase weights were also up in December, averaging 84.9kg, 1.4kg heavier than in in the previous year and over half a kilo lighter than in November. Overall, carcase weights also averaged 84.9kg during 2019, 1.4kg (2%) higher than in the previous year.

The combination of these factors meant UK pig meat production was 14% up year-on-year in December at 82,100 tonnes.

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