LMC: Ongoing Increase In NI Beef Exports To Europe

NORTHERN IRELAND, UK - The relaxation of the beef export ban in 2006 meant that NI processors had the option to increase the level of red meat exports to Europe and since then there certainly appears to have been a gradual increase in the volume of beef exports shipped to the continent from NI factories.
calendar icon 1 December 2011
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Data acquired and compiled by LMC shows that the seven major NI slaugherhouses have substantially increased red meat exports to the continent over recent years.

These figures show that in 2011, between January and August, 18,000 tonnes of beef were exported from NI to continental Europe or the Republic of Ireland.

This represented an increase of 5,000 tonnes or 37 per cent compared to the same period in 2010, despite much reduced availability of cattle for slaughter this year. The overall volume of beef exported to Europe has been increasing year-on-year since 2008 when these figures were first collated. The 2009 figures showed a 49 per cent increase on 2008 levels, while the 2010 figures showed a 32 per cent increase on the previous year.

Ireland (IE) is the chief export destination for red meat from NI and volumes exported to ROI have remained strong throughout the period concerned. Apart from ROI, Italy (IT) and France (FR) were the two dominant recipients of red meat exports from NI in recent years. Exports of NI red meat to Italy have increased sharply in 2011 with a 121 per cent increase in volumes compared to 2010.

Italy along with Greece (GR) generally tops the tables of farmgate prices across the EU and these figures show that the exporters have made good progress in penetrating these lucrative markets. The data shows that in the last three years, virtually nothing has been exported to the Greek market, with the first shipments to Greece being made in 2011.

Exports to France in the period from January to August 2011 are back slightly compared to the same period last year. However, it remains a significant trade. Steady year-on-year increases in the export trade to the Netherlands (NL) have also been recorded over the last three years, with Dutch imports of NI beef rising by 63 per cent this year between January and August compared to the same period last year.

Exports to Germany (DE) have increased sharply from a very low base and reports of increased exports of primals to Eastern Europe have been confirmed with this data showing a 60 per cent increase in beef exported to Poland (PL) over the last year. Interest from buyers in Spain (SP) and Portugal (PG) has increased sharply as is illustrated in Figure 2 below.

It is important to note that this data indicates trends in the trade of beef to Europe over the course of the last three years. This data is not a reliable indication on absolute volume of exports to the Europe since it only includes exports from seven abattoirs. This data does not include export information from other smaller abattoirs or the exports of secondary processors several of whom are known to be very active in export markets; nor does it include exports to third countries or offals.

This healthy growth in exports to continental Europe is to be welcomed and these figures certainly show that the local processors have been successful in identifying opportunities across Europe since the ban was lifted. This export growth also represents a diversification in sales and a slight reduction in reliance on the GB market which remains the core market.

One fact however, that will not be lost on regular readers of the LMC Bulletin is that GB R3 heifer prices were the highest in the EU in mid-November. The value of diversifying our markets should not be under-estimated, but ongoing developments in the trade must always be considered and the importance of looking after our core markets cannot be ignored particularly in the context of GB farmgate prices being so strong currently.

The future of the EU trade will much depend on the ongoing crisis in the Eurozone. The euro remains historically strong against sterling and if this situation is to persist then Europe will remain an attractive market.

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