Sheep meat imports saw substantial rise in 2022

By Gwen Ridler

- Last updated on GMT

Imports of lamb significantly increased in 2022, especially frozen product
Imports of lamb significantly increased in 2022, especially frozen product

Related tags Meat & Seafood Lamb Import

The total import of fresh and frozen sheep meat into the UK saw a substantial rise of 17% to 64,800 tonnes in 2022, according to the latest Hybu Cig Cymru - Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) Market Bulletin report.

Volumes received from New Zealand – the UK’s largest source of imported sheep meat – were 3% higher than in 2021. A significant proportion of the this volume arrived in the form of frozen product as opposed to fresh – 86% of the total compared to 57% in the previous year.

Glesni Phillips, HCC’s intelligence, analysis and business insight executive, said the UK also saw increases in imports from Ireland, while the months of September through November recorded abnormally high levels of frozen New Zealand product entering the UK.

‘Volatility in the market’

This news may be something that will surprise consumers and has likely played a part in putting pressure on domestic lamb prices and causing volatility within the market.

“Furthermore, it could mean a longer-term disruption as frozen New Zealand lamb from the last quarter of 2022 may be still coming onto the market now.”

The total volume of fresh and frozen beef imported to the UK in 2022 saw a slight decrease of 4%, down to 233,300 tonnes. Phillips pointed to a notable decline of 11% in the volume of Irish beef as a key driver in the fall in shipments, despite volumes from Germany and Poland being higher year-on-year.

Fresh and frozen pig meat imported to the UK remained relatively stable on the year at 320,500 tonnes – with imports of bacon and sausages featuring in the increase.

Red meat exports

The value of total red meat exports – including offal and processed product – also saw an uptick in 2022 to £1.8bn, significantly higher than in previous years. Of the meat that left the UK, sheep meat saw an increase of almost 8% to 78,000 tonnes, worth £503.5m (up 13%).

Beef and veal exports rose by 17% on the year, with value significantly increasing by 46% to £640m due to higher cattle farmgate prices on our domestic market. Total pig meat exports were up 10% to £623.2m, with volume rising by 7% to 372,600 tonnes.

Meanwhile, last month, strong sales of dairy, meat and alcoholic beverages saw exports of Irish food and drink grow to €16.7bn​ (£14.8bn) in 2022, according to Bord Bia.

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