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UK pork exports reached record levels in 2019

21st Feb 2020 / By Alistair Driver

UK pork exports reached record levels in 2019, increasing by 9% to reach 378,000 tonnes, including offal, worth £609 million in total.

Jonathan EckleyThis includes a 12% rise in chilled and frozen pork and 40,000 tonnes of processed pork products. Jonathan Eckley, AHDB head of Asia Pacific, described this as a 'phenomenal result for our pork exports'. 


"These strong figures have been rising gradually over the last few years, with total pig meat exports first breaking the 300,000 tonne barrier back in 2016. With a continued focus on exports, a near 20% increase in volume has been added over the past three years," he wrote.

With continued strong growth being reported from across Asia, 50% of UK total pig meat exports are now destined for third-country markets.

Last year saw unprecedented demand from China as a result of the ASF outbreak, which started in 2018, with a continued shortfall of domestically produced pork carried into 2019. As a result, UK total pig meat exports of China rose to 131,000 tonnes, up 61% on the year – worth a staggering £191m compared with £77m the previous year.

"The demand and particularly strong China prices in the Autumn resulted in shipments to some other Asian markets easing off, including the price sensitive Philippine market. However, the newly opened Taiwanese market added £6.1 million to UK exports in the first full year of trading following the market opening to UK pork late in 2018," Mr Eckley said.

"But the Asia marketplace wasn’t the only destination to boost our pork figures. The USA finished the year as the second largest destination outside the EU for UK pork exporters, this was despite year-end volume falling below 2018 levels.

"It was a year of two halves for US shipments, at the halfway mark exports were up 10% in volume, but the introduction of a tariff on EU pork resulted in the trade stalling towards the year-end. Also, albeit at lower levels, exports to Australia were strong and double on the year."

While exports to non-EU countries rose in 2019, Europe is still a hugely important destination for our pork exports, accounting for half of the total value of shipments. Ireland remained the largest EU market for UK pork exports, despite a small overall decline in shipments, driven by lower bacon exports.

Germany and the Netherlands were the next two most important destinations with the EU accounting for a combined 20% of overall exports.

Mr Eckley added: "The New Year has not been without its challenges, notably the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak in China.

"The situation has created some logistical issues, due to shortage of man-power as people hunker down. No doubt this will result in some challenging conditions in the short term, however the underlying fundamentals remain positive for the sector in the longer term."