The latest market update released by the Agriculture Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) shows the volume of sheepmeat imported by the UK in April 2024 fall by almost 2,000t on March levels.

While April import volumes eased to about 5,000t, they remain above April 2023 levels, but sit around 1,200t lower than April 2022.

New Zealand continues to be the primary supplier to the market, with the country accounting for 58% or approximately 2,900t in April.

The AHDB reports that this represents a reduction of 2,200t on March levels, citing that New Zealand exporters continue to contend with lower production, while an easing in UK domestic sheepmeat demand is also contributing to the fall off in imports.

Fewer lamb legs

The greatest decline was witnessed in a sharp drop of frozen sheep legs, with volumes falling from 1,700t in March to 760t in April.

Year-to-date (January to April) imports from New Zealand total 13,400t. This is a year-on-year increase of 5,200t, which the AHDB attributes to Cyclone Gabrielle in 2023 significantly affecting New Zealand sheepmeat exports.

This is reflected in an analysis of 2024 versus 2022 volumes, with import volumes running about 800t higher in 2024. It is also likely that New Zealand losing market share of the Chinese market is bringing greater focus on the UK market.

Sheepmeat imports from Australia were recorded at just over 1,000t in April. This is a decline of 85t on March 2024 levels, but 260t higher than the corresponding period in 2023.

Export volumes

UK sheepmeat exports in April 2024 were recorded at about 5,500t. This is a reduction of approximately 1,700t on both March 2024 and April 2023 volumes.

Unsurprisingly, the lower export volumes are being attributed to lower supplies in the market. Record domestic lamb prices and some recovery in domestic sheepmeat consumption is also having an influence.

The reduction in exports occurred primarily in the carcase market, with volumes exported running 1,100t lower at 4,300t in April. Bone-in cuts fell by about 480t to 600t, according to the AHDB, with March volumes of such product elevated in 2023 and 2024.