Official figures for UK dairy product imports for 2000 recently revealed that imports of both butter and cheese declined last year compared with 1999. In the case of butter, last year's imports of 97,000 tonnes were 4% down on the previous year. The drop was particularly significant for supplies from both New Zealand (down 21%) and Ireland (down 15%). In contrast, imports from Denmark rose 36% to 33,500 tonnes. These three countries accounted for just over 90% of all natural butter imports. Total imports of Cheddar cheese, the most important imported variety, also showed a severe slump last year by dropping to 87,000 tonnes or 22% less than in the previous year. The cut was shown by all the major suppliers, with Irish shipments down 8%, German down 59% and New Zealand slashed by 62%. In contrast with Cheddar, imports of speciality cheeses continued their inexorable climb and rose 16% to 157,000 tonnes. Over 80% of these speciality imports were imported from five countries ­ France, Germany, Ireland, Denmark and Belgium. The picture of UK exports of butter and cheese last year was not encouraging. Butter exports fell 29%, mainly due to a 33% drop in sales into the rest of the EU, and cheese exports were only 1% up on 1999. {{M/E CANNED GOODS }}