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Welsh Lamb exports booming

By Bethan Grylls

- Last updated on GMT

Welsh Lamb EU exports sees healthy year-on-year rises, but will new regulatory red tape put UK sheep exports at risk? Credit: Getty/Henry Arden
Welsh Lamb EU exports sees healthy year-on-year rises, but will new regulatory red tape put UK sheep exports at risk? Credit: Getty/Henry Arden

Related tags Trade Trends Regulation

Exports of Welsh Lamb and other sheep meats have grown again, whilst beef exports continue to recover.

Welsh Lamb continues to see year-on-year increases, with volumes and value witnessing double digital percentage inclines last year.

The total volume of sheep meat exported from Wales climbed 12%, estimated to have reached almost 30,500 tonnes, whilst total value hit £190.9m, up 10%, HMRC data revealed.

Laura Pickup, Hybu Cig Cymru - Meat Promotion Wales’ (HCC) head of strategic marketing and connections paid credit to the export team.

“It’s great news and really pleasing to see that, post-Brexit, increased shipments to the EU drove this very welcome lift in volumes and value.

“It’s a credit to our export team that volumes of fresh and frozen sheep meat exported from Wales to the EU were up around 13 per cent on the year - and in addition, value was up 14 per cent at £179.3 million.”

Both France and Germany continued to receive significant volumes of sheep meat from the region, with export volumes destined for the Netherlands and Italy also witnessing healthy increases.

Italy, in fact, is up “an incredible near 40%,”​ Pickup highlighted.

Moreover, although Welsh farmgate prices were ‘firm’ last year, Pickup said the region’s lamb continues to be competitive in the global marketplace.

The data on beef and sheep meat showed the total value of red meat exports from Wales for 2023 reached £267.9m, climbing 4.1% from the previous year.

The total volume of red meat exports from Wales also saw an increase of 0.5% for 2023 – estimated at almost 48,500 tonnes.

“Volumes have continued to recover but they are still around 13% short of the highs of around 55,500 tonnes experienced in 2020,”​ added Pickup. “Although we have seen 33% increase of beef value to Hong Kong, the total value of beef exports from Wales for 2023 dipped to £77.1m, eight% lower on the year, while total volumes of beef exports were down 14 % on the year.”

Will the UK sheep market suffer in the future?

Whilst this is good news for Wales, this comes at the same time as the British Meat Processors Association warns ‘bureaucracy’ could seriously harm overall UK sheep exports in the future.

“The UK sheep sector is heavily dependent on exports to the EU​,” Nan Jones, BMPA’s technical policy manager, wrote in a recent statement. “Broadly, the UK exports about a third of its production. Of that around 98% of fresh lamb goes to the EU. For this reason, it is vital that trade is as frictionless as possible.”

She goes onto highlight the EU as a key market for ‘items’ with little or no demand in the UK, such as offal and animal by-products, as she issues a warning that alignment with the EU mustn’t divert too drastically.

Currently we are mostly aligned with the EU, but as import regulations begin to change, such as new Border Target Operating Model, divergences will emerge which “may affect our export status”.

Jones concluded with a plea to Government as things changes come into play: “UK policy makers need to have a more in-depth understanding of the food supply chain and the cost implications that affect farmers, processors and ultimately the final consumer.”

In related news, a new price has been set for Welsh milk at 38.5p per litre.

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