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UK poultry exports to EU down 70% in value

Time-consuming checks have resulted in UK meat exports to the European Union falling sharply since the beginning of the year.

Overall poultry exports fell by 69% in the first quarter of the year in addition to significantly impacting business viability. Chicken saw a 62% decrease in volume and a 67% fall in value, from around £90m to just £30m, according to UK Government statistics.

Chicken saw a 62% decrease in volume and a 67% fall in value, from around £90m to just £30m, according to UK Government statistics. Photo: Michel Zoeter
Chicken saw a 62% decrease in volume and a 67% fall in value, from around £90m to just £30m, according to UK Government statistics. Photo: Michel Zoeter

The reason for the fall has been the difficulties with Brexit red-tape and disruption at the UK-EU border. As Britain is now categorised as a “third country”, British businesses have been subjected to a number of requirements imposed on imports, including international sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) controls.

As part of the SPS Certification Working Group, the British Poultry Council is calling on the Government to resolve the severe impact on trade through a 3-pronged new approach:

  • Negotiate a form of mutual veterinary agreement with the EU to ease problems of trading food and feed between Great Britain and EU and Northern Ireland and then the EU to GB when import controls take effect. Equivalence of standards is essential to time-sensitive, agile trade.
  • Improve current systems to remove bureaucracy, reduce time, error, and costs. This includes an integrated, end-to-end electronic documentation system that uses existing technology to ease the confusion and delays of paper-based systems.
  • Review requirements for inspection and certification which maintain both fairness and competitiveness. The urgency of this cannot be underestimated, argues the BPC, as we begin the countdown to the implementation of full GB import controls which will further stretch systems and resources.

Richard Griffiths, BPC chief executive, said: “The bureaucracy of “third country” trading is eroding the capability and profitability of exporting products of animal origin to the EU and NI. If exporting sectors, including poultry meat, are to survive and thrive under Global Britain’s established Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA), new ways of managing the system must be arranged to secure the viability of British business going forward.

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“Government must engage with the EU to build a system that works for exporters rather than against them. Without Government support in investing in sufficient resources and systems, we can expect a detrimental effect on the sustainability of British poultry meat businesses, and severely impact our ability to carry on feeding the nation.”

Figures released by the NFU at the beginning of the yeas showed the UK exports 19% of its total volume of poultry produced. Of this 70% of poultry meat exports goes to the EU, worth £192m in 2019, with the majority being dark meat due to the UK consumer strong preference for breast meat.