The latest market report by the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHBD) shows 5,070t imported sheepmeat from New Zealand to the UK in March 2024, the highest level since March 2021.

The import figure is 2,000t higher than in February 2024, with imports for the first quarter of 2024 recorded at 10,500t, some 4,400t higher than the corresponding period in 2023.

Frozen imports accounted for 8,400t, with legs making up 62% of this figure.

The increase in imports was underpinned by tight supplies in the UK market and keen appetite for the religious festivals of Easter and Ramadan.

Strong demand

The AHDB says that demand was at such a strong level that “there were reports of air-freighting chilled product to the EU and UK due to short shipping deadlines and a need to fulfil demand”.

As such, it is likely that volumes imported in April 2024 were ahead of recent years.

The higher volumes exported to the UK from New Zealand were greatly welcomed by the New Zealand sheep sector, with exports to China under pressure in recent times.

This is due to Australia gaining a greater foothold in the Chinese market and displacing New Zealand exports.