meat pigs abattoir

UK exports of beef, lamb and pork soared during the first six months of 2017 to top £500m, up 18% on the same period last year.

Exports from the three sectors hit £582m from January to June, according to data from HMRC, with exports to non-EU countries performing particularly well.

Pork exports outside the EU rose by almost 4% in volume to 41,000 tonnes - with more than half going to China - which has seen a 6% rise in exports to £24m.

Beef exports to non-EU countries rose 45% year on year to almost 8,000 tonnes, resulting in a 62% increase in value to £23.5m. Meanwhile, total lamb exports were up 18% to £178m, with exports to non-EU countries doubling in 2017 so far.

Key target markets such as Hong Kong and China have led the growth of exports to non-EU countries this year - with the latest data showing a four-fold increase in chilled beef exports to Hong Kong as well as a 91% rise in chilled lamb.

It comes as overall exports of UK food and drink for the first half of 2017 grew to £10.2bn, according to FDF and HMRC data published earlier this month. This represents an 8.5% increase on the same period last year - the biggest H1 exports value on record.

Non-EU exports are expected to rise even further following the recent announcement of a £200m trade deal for pork access to China and a £34m deal to export beef to the Philippines.

“These latest figures paint a positive picture for the meat export industry,” said AHDB head of livestock export trade development Jean-Pierre Garnier.

“It is very encouraging to see an increase in exports to non-EU countries and a strong progression in value as this is an important area for our meat exports with the challenge of Brexit,” he added.

“AHDB recognises the importance of developing balanced international trade that does not rely solely on the EU, but we also cannot underestimate the importance of Europe as two-thirds of our meat exports are still destined for the EU. However, we understand the challenges that our meat industry faces and we must look at new exports deals and continue to work towards securing access to third countries.”