A triple whammy of strong domestic demand, the impact of Covid and logistical issues following Brexit has been blamed for a drop in red meat exports from Wales.

The combination has led to a 'subdued picture' for red meat exports during the first half of 2021, according to Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC).

HMRC data indicates that UK exports of beef were 31 per cent lower in the first half of 2021 compared to the same period last year, while exports of sheep meat were almost 25 per cent down.

Analysts say a primary driver is strong domestic retail demand which is limiting the volume of product available for export, combined with a tight supply.

Defra figures also show that prime cattle slaughterings were down 3 per cent on the year while the number of prime lambs slaughtered was down by 8 per cent during the first six months of the year.

In addition, the limited demand from the foodservice sector in countries overseas as a result of Covid restrictions has reduced export demand, while trade has also been affected by some logistical issues following Brexit, says Glesni Phillips, data analyst at HCC.

"All of these factors have had an impact on the value of lamb and beef exports from Wales; they normally total £200 million a year, but are – as expected by industry insiders – somewhat down this year," she said.

The volume of meat imported into the UK was also affected between January and June, with beef and sheep meat imports down by nearly 13 per cent and 16 per cent on the year.

“The major changes in society and politics in the last couple of years have had a substantial impact on trade so far this year, as the latest HMRC data shows," sais Ms Phillips.

“The closure of the foodservice sector in the UK and overseas has changed consumer eating habits, resulting in a weaker demand for imported goods. In addition to this, the strong demand for red meat from British consumers at retail has affected the volume available for exporting.

“However, this has not changed the UK’s reliance on key markets such as Ireland, France and Germany.

"Despite importing and exporting significantly less red meat, they remain important markets for our red meat industry. France accounted for over 48 per cent of the total sheep meat export value during the period.”

She added: “As the supply of lamb is usually highest during the latter half of the year, it is expected that the sheep meat trade will improve, however, the continued strong farmgate prices may impact on export volumes particularly to price sensitive markets.”

For a deeper insight into the data, read HCC’s Market Bulletin which can be found online at meatpromotion.wales/en/news-industry-info/market-bulletin