The volume of sheepmeat exported from the UK for the month of April was recorded at 5,250t.

Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) livestock analyst Charlie Reeve reports this represents a year-on-year reduction of 1,100t or an 18% reduction, while when compared to March 2021 export volumes fell by 860t or 14%.

The report cautions that from January 2021, the collection of data by the HMRC has changed and, as such, comparisons between current and historic data should be subject to caution and possible future revisions.

The reduction in export volumes shed some light on the strong demand for Irish produce in key export markets with volumes exported from Ireland also reducing.

Factors affecting reduction

The AHDB highlights a number of factors being responsible for the reduced export volumes.

High lamb prices are raised as contributing to reduced competitiveness in the EU, with lower demand from the food service sector also contributing.

On the other hand, tight supplies of sheepmeat available for export, stemming from lower domestic production and reduced imports, also had a role to play, as had increased trade friction with the EU following Brexit.

Total export volumes to the EU were recorded at 4,600t, meaning there were 650t exported to international markets.

Export volumes to the EU reduced 800t on March levels, meaning export volumes to international markets fell by 60t compared with last month.

Year-to-date exports

As reflected in Figure 1, the volume of sheepmeat exported for the first four months of 2021 fell by 5,600t or 25% to 17,200t.

Figure 1. UK sheepmeat export volumes

The reduced exports earlier in the year are stemming from the same factors highlighted for the reduction in April.

Reduced imports of sheepmeat from New Zealand is likely to have played a significant role during the first quarter of 2021 with domestic supplies also tighter.