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UK Continues to be Net Beef Importer

11 December 2018

UK - The UK is a net importer of beef with 212,337 tonnes imported during the first nine months of 2018 while 80,810 tonnes of beef products were exported, according to the latest available information from HMRC.

Beef imports during the 2018 period were 6.6 percent higher than the same period in 2017 during which UK beef imports totalled 199,186 tonnes. This was the second consecutive year in which the level of beef imports in the UK recorded a strong increase and was the highest level of import recorded in the last decade.

The EU is the biggest source of beef imports for the UK market and accounted for 94 percent of all beef imports during the first nine months of 2018. Beef imports from the EU totalled 200,095 tonnes during the 2018 period with imports from ROI accounting for 76 percent of this at 151,469 tonnes as indicated in Figure 1.


Figure 1: Breakdown of UK beef imports from EU countries January-September 2018 [Graph: LMC]

This is a similar proportion to previous years. ROI is also the biggest export destination for UK beef at 27,173 tonnes during the first nine months of 2018 and with some of the major plants having processing operations in both jurisdictions a proportion of this import/export trade is due to companies transferring product between sites.

The Netherlands and Poland are the next biggest suppliers of beef imports to the UK with each accounting for seven percent of UK beef imports from the EU during the first nine months of 2018 while Germany accounted for a further four percent. These proportions are similar to previous years. The UK also imports small volumes of beef from non-EU countries with 12,243 tonnes of beef imported during the first nine months of 2018.

While this was a 24 percent increase from the corresponding period in 2017 when 9,906 tonnes of beef were imported from non-EU sources it is well below the same period in 2016 when 16,567 tonnes of beef were imported. Imports from non EU sources accounted for 5.7 percent of total beef imports during the first nine months of 2018.

During the 2018 period there were increases in the volume of beef imported by the UK from Uruguay, Brazil, New Zealand, Argentina and Botswana when compared to the same period in 2017. The volumes involved however remain very small. Meanwhile there have been declines in the volume of beef imported from Australia and Namibia during the 2018 period.

UK fresh/chilled beef imports totalled 140,156 tonnes during the first nine months of 2018 and these accounted for 66 percent of total UK beef imports. The volume of fresh/chilled beef imported by the UK during the 2018 period was unchanged from year earlier levels. The largest majority of this fresh/chilled beef imported by the UK comes from the EU.

Frozen beef imports totalled 72,181 tonnes during the period January-September 2018 and this accounted for 34 percent of total UK beef imports. In the same period in 2017 UK frozen beef imports totalled 57,318 tonnes which accounts for a 26 percent increase year on year however the volumes involved remain relatively low. Most frozen beef products imported by the UK come from non- EU markets.

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