The latest statistics from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) showed international sales of UK lamb in June had reached similar levels to 2019 – 7,150 tonnes, 2.9% higher than the same month last year.
This followed a 13.35% decrease to 38,570 tonnes in the first half of 2020, largely due to the disruption to foodservice business during COVID-19 lockdowns in the spring.
Data analyst Kantar previously reported a 7% decrease in sales of lamb, thanks to the coronavirus eating into peak time for lamb sales.
Lamb in growth
Despite this setback, the value of lamb exports in the year to date grew by 1.97% to £191.1m in 2020 compared with £187.4m in the previous year.
Commenting on the role of Welsh lamb to UK exports, HCC’s export development executive Deanna Jones said: “In many countries the foodservice sector is an important consumer of Welsh Lamb. We responded by focusing more on social media advertising and the retail sector, such as French-language recipe videos and marketing with supermarkets in Italy.
“The trade statistics for Italy are particularly pleasing. Not only did we see strong figures for June, but overall more lamb has been exported there in the first six months of 2020 than the same period in 2019.”
According to HCC, 35-40% of Wales’s annual lamb production is consumed overseas. Countries in Europe and beyond provide a range of premium markets and an outlet for cuts less favoured by UK consumers.
Growth outside of Europe
Jones noted the continued growth in the lamb trade in countries outside Europe. These countries had been targeted for strategic investment by HCC over the past three years through trade visits, a presence at major food shows and other market development initiatives.
“The fear with any major trade disruption, such as we have seen this year, is that progress that was being made in smaller but growing markets might stall,” she added.
“However there has been continued significant growth in lamb exports to Canada, Hong Kong, and several countries in the Middle East.”
Meanwhile, the British Meat Processors Association claimed a move to convince the Food Standards Agency to support extending chilled red meat shelf-life beyond ten days could benefit other meats too – a move that could reduce waste and boost sales.