UK red meat exports have enjoyed a good start to the year with shipments already worth £733m in the first six months – up nearly 3% on the same period last year.
The strong results come during one of the most challenging years on record for red meat exports due to the ongoing difficulties caused by Covid-19.
According to data from HMRC, pork exports led the way with a 15 percent increase in value to £311 million.
While challenges on some EU markets resulted in a 10% decline in EU shipments, non-EU pork and pig meat offal exports were up 17% on the year to end June, accounting for 59% of UK exports.
AHDB International Market Development Director, Dr Phil Hadley said figures showed that despite Covid-19, the UK meat sectors continued to export around the world.
“There are a number of positive factors for the first half of 2020, including our exports to non-EU countries," he said.
"While Europe remains our most significant market for red meat exports, it is imperative with Brexit on the horizon, that we continue to take advantage of the opportunities third countries offer.”
While both volume and value for beef exports were down on last year, shipments to non-EU countries were up 21% and 46% respectively.
The overall decline in beef shipments was due to Covid-related challenges on the global foodservice market and strong domestic demand.
Among the key third country destinations for UK beef is Japan, which has seen 1,369 tonnes of beef shipped so far this year after the UK gained market access in early 2019 – bringing a £4.7m boost to the sector.
Other regions which have seen a rise in exports include the Philippines with volumes up 51% to 1,958 tonnes and Canada where shipments have grown to 968 tonnes from a modest 26 tonnes last year.
Sheep meat exports have increased in value by almost 2 percent, worth £195 million over the first six months.
The sector saw a 129% rise in volumes to non-EU countries both for commodity cuts to markets such as Ghana or, at the higher end of the market, to Canada which both recorded sharp rises in shipments this year.
Dr Hadley added: “We can see that we are in a strong position in regards to our red meat exports and we hope to build on these impressive figures for the remainder of 2020.”