Opinion

YTD 2022 UK Beef Production in Line with 2021, but Export Value Up Sharply Driven by EU Imports

Fresh Whole Beef
Frozen Bone-In Beef
Meat
United Kingdom
Published Oct 31, 2022
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•UK beef production from January through September 2022 is practically the same as in the same period in 2021. However, UK beef exports from January through August 2022 are up by a considerable 64% YoY, driven by demand from the EU.

UK beef and veal production reached 73.37 thousand mt in September 2022, up by 0.7% compared to the same month in 2021. Compared to the 2017-2021 September average, production in September 2022 was down 2.3%.

From January through September 2022, total beef production amounted to 665.2 thousand mt, virtually the same (-0.1%) compared to the same period in 2021.


Source: Tridge and Defra

Total cattle slaughter, including calves, steers, heifers, young bulls, cows, and adult bulls, amounted to 228.2 thousand head in September 2022, up by 2.9% compared to the same month in 2021. Compared to the 2017-2021 September average, slaughter was down 2.4%.

In detail, the slaughter of prime cattle, consisting of steers, heifers, and young bulls, totaled 160.6 thousand head, up by 1% YoY. Slaughter of cows and adult bulls totaled 59.7 thousand head, up 6% YoY. Slaughter of calves totaled 8 thousand head, up by 19% YoY. From January through September 2022, total cattle slaughter amounted to 2.01 million head, up 0.9% to the same period in 2021.

The average carcass weight for prime cattle was 341 kg in September 2022, down 1.3% YoY. The average carcass weight for cows was 297.2 kg, down 2.0% YoY, and for adult bulls 498.1 kg, up 2.8% YoY.

The lower average weight in prime cattle and cows explains why beef production only increased by a slight 0.7% YoY despite a larger increase in cattle slaughter in the same period.

From January through August 2022, the UK exported GBP 361 million in value of beef (HS Codes 0201 and 0202, Fresh or chilled, and frozen meat of bovine animals). This represents an increase of 64% YoY.

However, it's worth noting that the gap between the export value of 2022 and 2021 has diminished as the year advances. In August, exports were GBP 43.9 million, up by 32% YoY, while in April, exports were GBP 49.6 million, up by 108% YoY.

In particular, taking into account exports of fresh or chilled beef to the EU, exports of fresh or chilled beef outside the EU, exports of frozen beef to the EU, and exports of frozen beef outside the EU, exports of fresh or chilled beef to the European Union have grown the most in January-August 2022, posting an increase of 83% YoY. Of the four mentioned categories its share in export value increased from 67% in January-August 2021 to 75% in January-August 2022.

Exports of frozen beef to the EU also posted notable YoY growth of 68%, while exports of frozen beef outside the EU grew by 9% YoY. Meanwhile, exports of fresh or chilled beef outside the EU decreased 55% YoY.

Some of the reasons behind this sharp increase in exports from the UK to the EU are:

•strong EU demand for beef, particularly in the first half of the year, with the lifting of pandemic restrictions,

•record-high freight costs in the first half of the year making the UK a cheaper destination to import from,

•slightly less beef production in the EU (with sharp YoY declines in France and Germany, in particular).


Source: Tridge and HMRC 

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