The extent of the tight supplies of sheepmeat in the UK market in May has been confirmed in a market update published by the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB).

UK exports for the month reduced by 2,000t or some 27% on April levels and were recorded at 5,300t.

Exports were 10% up year on year, but have fallen well behind levels witnessed in previous months.

In the region of 5,000t of exports were destined for the EU market, up 8% or 390t, on May 2021 levels.

UK sheepmeat exports.

As reflected in the bar chart, exports to France accounted for almost half (2,400t) of the total volume exported to the EU.

Exports to Germany were lower year on year, while exports to Belgium and Ireland were marginally up.

Import volumes

The significant reduction in export volumes means that the UK was a net importer of sheepmeat in 2022.

Import volumes were recorded at 6,200t in May, similar to levels seen in April 2022 and up 30% (1,400t) on May 2021 levels.

UK sheepmeat imports.

AHDB analyst Freya Shuttleworth said: “Imports are gradually returning to the volumes seen before COVID-19.

"New Zealand holds the largest market share of UK sheepmeat imports, with 66% (4,000t) originating from the country, in line with volumes from April.

“Australia and the EU each sent around 900t of sheepmeat to the UK in May, each accounting for 15% of imports.

"The year-on-year improvement in EU shipments to the UK has been driven by higher exports from Ireland who made up 72% (670t) of the EU volume in May”.