New Brexit controls continued to hamper meat exports in February
The introduction of new Brexit controls earlier this year continued to hamper UK meat exports to the EU in February, new trade figures show.
Government figures, released on Tuesday, show that overall UK exports to the EU recovered somewhat from the January crisis, but volumes remain well below 2020 levels. EU rose 47% from the previous month after a record drop of 42% in January.
After falling to just £ 400million in January, exports of food and live animals fell back to £ 700million in February, although this remains 29% below the £ 900million exported by UK to EU in February 2020.
Data on meat and meat preparations showed an even larger deficit, with exports to the EU falling by 42% compared to the previous year:
- February 2019: £ 115m
- February 2020: £ 113m
- February 2021: £ 66m
(Export value to the EU of Meat and Meat Preparations, Office of National Statistics, April 13, 2021)
In January, pork exports to the EU fell 84%, to just 2,500 tonnes, a reduction of 13,000 tonnes per year. As a result, overall pork shipments (including offal) fell by almost half from 2020, to just 15,600 tonnes.
NPA Senior Advisor Charlie Dewhirst said: “It is obviously encouraging to see exports recovering from the dire situation in January, but we are still a long way from previous trade figures.
“The pandemic will always affect export opportunities, but much remains to be done to tackle systemic issues. We need to improve and modernize our trade processes with the EU to help the pig sector reclaim the export market and sell our world-class products on the continent. “
Exports of live pigs are still not possible due to the lack of border infrastructure in Channel ports. NPA Senior Policy Advisor Rebecca Veale told BBC Farming Today how the inability to trade live animals with the EU is damaging the UK pig industry.
She was interviewed as part of a feature on how the new requirement for border control posts (BCP) to inspect animals exported and imported to the UK is disrupting the livestock industries.
You can listen to the feature HERE (from 3.30 min)
Asked about the impact on pigs, Rebecca said: “Unfortunately, on the routes through the seaports that we would use, there are currently no border checkpoints.”
She underlined how PCAs were a problem for individual companies and not something over which EU governments had control. She said the NPA is “ working very hard ” with some countries interested in setting up a PCA, but stressed that while progress is being made, none are accepting live animals.
“For the pig industry in the UK it is really important to export breeding animals. There are a small number of breeding companies and their ability to operate in this country and abroad is important to all producers.
At his last meeting, Mr Dewhirst briefed the NPA Pork Industry Group on the search for new PCAs in EU ports.
A possible site has been found inland near Calais, although it still needs approval from French authorities and Brussels. Other options include the Hook of Holland and Zeebrugge. However, none of the facilities have been built yet, so it will likely take some time before exports can resume.
The need for BCPs to screen live pigs entering the UK from the EU has been postponed until early 2022 – various possible locations have been identified.