The EU imported 45,084t carcase weight equivalent (CWE) of beef from Brazil in the first half of 2022, a 14% increase on the 39,604t imported in the same period last year.

Overall, EU beef imports were up just over 12%, with volumes from Argentina also up from 23,525t in January to June 2021 to 28,245t CWE in the first half of this year.

Imports from the US were up by one third to 8,532t CWE, all of which comes in tariff-free as part of its share in the high-quality beef quota.

The biggest change is in imports from the UK, which are more than twice what they were in the first half of 2021. This is very much the Brexit effect, as the UK adapted to the introduction of EU border controls on 1 January 2021.

Volumes were 229,079t in the first half of this year compared with 116,026t last year. This year's EU imports from the UK are also higher than the 201,272t in the first half of 2020.

EU exports

EU beef exports also increased in the first half of 2022. The UK is the single significant market where volumes increased by 42% to 718,752t between January and May, which is 42% of all EU beef exports.

The increase in 2022 is again strongly influenced by Brexit, with stockpiling in the UK in late 2020 meaning a seriously reduced demand in the first half of 2021.

Israel is the EU’s second-largest export market, taking 149,981t between January and May, up 18% on the same period last year. Switzerland is next taking 84,235t, a 31% increase on the same period in 2021.

Other exporters

January to July exports for Australia show a continued decline in beef exports as herd rebuilding continues. This year, 473,426t shipped weight (SW) have been exported, a 6% decline on the 503,584t exported in the same period last year.

Despite the drop, Australia will still be the third-biggest beef exporter in the world this year behind Brazil and the US.

Brazil’s beef exports, on the other hand, are running well ahead of last year at 1.478m tonnes SW compared with 1.275m tonnes between January and August 2021.

Brazil beef exports in August 2022 set a new monthly record at 228,696t.

US beef exports also increased in the first half of 2022, up 6% to 743,904t SW.

The message for Irish farmers from international beef trade data is that global demand continues to increase, absorbing the additional production for export in the world’s major beef exporting countries.

Australia is currently going through a dip in exports, which has extended to the past three years as herd rebuilding continues.

The market for Australia, South America and the US is not presently in the EU, it is very much in Asia and the US for manufacturing beef used in burgers and mince.

What will become interesting is how access to the UK markets - as a result of trade deals - will mean. At the very least, it will make the UK a market option for Australia in direct competition for Irish beef.