November 16, 2020
Nearly 60% of UK's pig meat last year comes from imports
Slightly under 60% of the United Kingdom's pig meat in 2019 was obtained through imports, said the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB).
Most of the meat originated from the European Union. About 30% of UK pig meat production was exported. The total volume produced in the country was only equal to about 58% of what it consumes.
A crucial role played by trade is in balancing the carcass. UK consumers prefer cuts from the leg and loin, and there are not enough pigs in the UK to satisfy that demand. The nation prefers back bacon to belly bacon.
In China, an important export destination, very different parts of the pig are preferred. The current reduction in Chinese domestic pig meat production - due to African swine fever - means that Chinese import demand covers a wider range of cuts than what is typical.
Imported pig meat tends to feature more heavily in the foodservice sector. Any disruption to that market, such as state of national lockdown that closes restaurants, affects imports more than it does on demand for British pork. During the first lockdown, data from Kantar indicated a rise in pork demand driven by retail and so British product would also have been in high demand. This is also expected to be the case in the second lockdown this month.
As for Brexit, the UK government has published the external tariffs it intends to apply to imports outside of any free trade agreements. These would apply to EU product in the event that no deal can be reached with the EU.
However, upon leaving the customs union, the UK will be free to revise these external tariffs if it wishes. Nonetheless, the tariffs currently set to be in place are high for pig meat products, in the range of 30-40%. As the UK is a significant net importer of pig meat, this would increase the value of domestic pork.
Exports of pig meat and sow meat to the EU would also face similarly high tariffs if no trade deal is agreed.
However, an increasing share of exports now go to China instead of the EU (45% in the year to date, including offal).