UK pork exports doubled in 2019 as African Swine Fever boosts demand

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African Swine Fever in China is having a knock-on effect on the pork and other red meat sectors right across the world, including in Wales, according to market analysis by Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC).

The impact of the pig virus has seen 50% of China’s pork production wiped out. As pork is a large proportion of the diet of the world’s most populous country, the effect has been felt worldwide in a rise in demand – and prices – for pork.

The available HMRC export statistics for the first 11 months of 2019 (excluding December) show that pork exports from the UK to China have doubled compared to the previous year, and China is now the largest single export destination for British pork.

Recent figures on abattoir throughput in the UK shows that December 2019 saw the highest year-on-year increase in pig slaughterings, as other countries prepare to meet the demand for protein imports from the Chinese market.

The African Swine Fever crisis in China and other global factors are also making their impact felt in global trade patterns for other types of protein. Imports of lamb into the UK were down by 19.1%, partly due to countries such as New Zealand looking to increase trade with China, while production in Australia was hit by drought.

In addition to global trends, exchange rates and political factors are impacting on the performance of beef and lamb exports from Wales – a crucial sector which is worth £200 million annually to the Welsh economy. Although 2019 January to November export figures are currently only available on a UK-wide basis, a rise in Welsh Lamb sales to markets as diverse as Germany and the Middle East is likely to be a major contributor to a year-on-year increase of 16.2% in the volume of sheepmeat exports from the UK.

“With just December’s figures left to be confirmed, 2019 looks like one of the biggest years on record for exports of sheepmeat from Wales, and a significant one too for beef exports,” said HCC Data Analyst Glesni Phillips. “The pig health crisis in China is driving global demand for pork, and we can see changing priorities for other major meat-producing countries as a result, with more New Zealand lamb, for instance, heading to Asia.”

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