The Covid-19 pandemic failed to dampen global demand for UK red meat, according to the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB).
The levy body said despite the challenges of Covid and increased domestic demand, the value of UK red meat exports in 2020 remained strong at more than £1.5 billion.
The latest data from HMRC shows 660,000 tonnes of UK beef, pork and sheep meat were shipped around the world last year – down just 3,777 tonnes on 2019’s record year, but up marginally on the year in terms of value.
Pig meat exports, including offal, increased by almost 6% to 400,000 tonnes and were worth £654m, compared with £609m in 2019.
Beef exports, including offal, reduced slightly to 166,000 tonnes, from 184,000 tonnes the year before, and were worth £453m.
Sheep meat, and sheep offal, exports were also down 7% to 93,600 tonnes, however the value rose by 9% to £447m.
“When you consider the difficult trading year we’ve had with the run-up to Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic, these full-year results are incredibly strong, with our pork exports even increasing in value by 7%,” said AHDB international development director, Dr Phil Hadley.
“We have also seen an increase in domestic demand for red meat, which has slightly impacted the volumes available for exporting.
“With all of this in mind, 2020 has delivered some encouraging and positive results for our red meat exports.”
The HMRC data also shows an increase in sales of pig and sheep meat to non-EU countries – pig meat exports were up 17% in volume and 23% in value, while sheep meat exports increased by 22% in volume and 48% in value.
Dr Hadley said Japan had proved to be a successful new export market for UK beef producers – exports in 2020 were worth £5.4m, with 1,581 tonnes purchased in the year, compared with 734 tonnes in 2019.