According to AHDB, sheep meat imports in February saw significant growth on a monthly basis, with total volumes increasing by 52% (1,200t) to 3,600t.
Most of this increase was driven by imports from New Zealand, which grew by 144% (1,200t) to 2,000t due to increasing volumes of frozen products such as sheep legs (+367%, 950t) and boneless lamb (+181%, 230t).
However, on a year-on-year basis, total imports decreased by 24% (1,100t), mainly due to a 59% drop (-800t) in sheep meat imports from Ireland and a 28% decline (-300t) in imports from Australia.
Looking at specific sheep meat products, the year-on-year decrease in February was due to large declines in imports of frozen boneless lamb (-27%, 300t), frozen bone-in sheep meat (-58%, 300t), and fresh boneless sheep meat (-75%, 500t).
However, this was partially offset by a large increase in imports of frozen sheep legs (+57%, 500t) from New Zealand.
In terms of exports, volumes increased by 5% (300t) on a monthly basis, with higher exports to Ireland (+21%, 120t) and Hong Kong (+438%, 130t) contributing to this increase compared to January.
However, on a year-on-year basis, exports were marginally down by 2% (110t) due to decreases in exports to EU destinations, particularly France (-5%, -140t) and Belgium (-23%, -160t).
Nevertheless, exports were up 6% (340t) compared to the 5-year average, with increasing volumes going to France (+14%, 340t). Fresh lamb carcases remained the most exported sheep meat product, making up 77% of total volumes in February, but saw minimal change in exports on both a monthly and year-on-year basis.
The MOM increases were driven by increasing exports of other products, such as frozen boneless lamb (+97%, 100t), which make up a smaller proportion of exports.
However, growth in frozen boneless lamb was outweighed by lower exports of frozen bone-in sheep and fresh sheep carcases on a year-on-year basis.