Farming News - Why is the UK importing more sheep meat when exports fall?

Why is the UK importing more sheep meat when exports fall?

22 May 2020
Frontdesk / Livestock

Uk sheep meat exports fall as imports climb.In March, UK exports of fresh and frozen sheep meat fell 40% (3,500 tonnes) in volume compared to the previous year values also fell by a smaller 21%. Conversely, sheep meat imports increased 16% (1,300 tonnes) in volume and 34% in value.  

Live lamb prices ease, while deadweight gains


UK export volumes of fresh and frozen sheep meat fell 40% to 5,200 tonnes in March starting to illustrate the shipping challenges presented by coronavirus. The value of these exports fell by less, down 21% to £28.5 million as the unit price increased 32%. France went into lockdown around a week before the UK, and so demand from the foodservice sector fell sharply in March, and with it the need for imported lamb.

Exports to all the UK’s main export destinations have fallen with shipments to France, the UK’s largest export destination falling 45% on the year to 1,700 tonnes. Exports to Germany, Belgium and Ireland were down 48%, 21% and 50% respectively.

March’s exports bring UK exports for Q1 2020 to 18,200 tonnes, down 15% with a value increase of £89.8 million up 1%. 


In comparison to 2019, the volume of imports was up 16% in March, to 9,300 tonnes. Most of this increased volume came from New Zealand and Australia up 1,100 tonnes and 700 tonnes respectively. Conversely imports from Ireland and the Netherlands were down 52% and 21%. The value of these imports rose 34% to £55.8 million due to an increase of 15% in the average unit price.

Shipments rose slightly because New Zealand and Australia struggled to ship some product to China. This sheep meat would have left ports in February, given the six-week shipping time. At that time, the UK supply situation was known to be tight, before coronavirus closed the eating out market.

UK imports of fresh and frozen sheep meat for the first quarter of 2020 now stand at 16,900 tonnes down 6% though the value has increased 10% to £95.6 million.