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UK pork exports halved in January, as EU trade collapsed

19th Mar 2021 / By Alistair Driver

UK exports of pig meat plummeted in January, as shipments almost came to a standstill due to new Brexit checks and bureaucracy. 

Overall pig meat (including offal) shipments fell by nearly a half compared with a year ago to only 15,600 tonnes. This was driven overwhelmingly by a fall in EU exports, which amounted to just 2,500 tonnes, a reduction of 13,000 tonnes (-84%) year on year.

"This data supports widespread reports of disruption due to increased administrative requirements, and inspections at EU ports," AHDB said. 

"We know that those attempting to export face an increased administrative burden, but we don’t know how many of them deferred exports until the processes became clearer. It may also take some time to establish how much trade is lost longer term, from companies that no longer find it profitable to export at all."

UK pork exports Jan 21

Perhaps surprisingly, imports of pig meat from the EU followed a broadly similar pattern, despite the lower level of scrutiny at the UK border, which will continue to be the case for the rest of this year. Volumes fell by 30,000 tonnes (-41%) year on year, to only 42,600 tonnes in January.

UK pork imports Jan 21

Again, it is possible to see in the data just how much COVID-19 dominated trade flows throughout 2020, AHDB said.

It’s worth noting that a year on year comparison of January’s trade figure also includes any effects of COVID-19, which has been suppressing pork exports to the EU since March. 

"However, it would appear that some pig meat exporters shipped increased volumes in the later months of 2020. This could have been in anticipation of difficulties or the possibility of tariffs in the New Year and would offset some of January’s losses," AHDB said.

As of January 2021 data, the way HMRC collects trade data has changed, which will be reflected in the trade statistics.

Comparisons between this and historic data should be treated with caution, and may well be subject to future revisions, AHDB said.