UK dairy exports drop by 10% in 2020

UK exports of dairy products totalled 1.32 million tonnes in 2020, down 10% on 2019, with exports falling across all the major product categories, according to AHDB analyst Katherine Jack.

However, despite the challenges faced by the industry, most categories were at or above 2018 export levels.

Powders and concentrates felt the sharpest decline, falling by 17% (29k tonnes). Cheese exports were also down 15k tonnes (7%) on the year, to 193k tonnes for 2020.

UK dairy imports also fell, dipping by 6% on the year to 1.29m tonnes. Most categories saw a decline in import volumes apart from butter, which was steady, and yoghurt and other fermented dairy products which saw an increase of 2%.

Imports of whey products had the sharpest decline, falling 31% (29k tonnes) on the year. The biggest decline in volume terms was imports of cheese and curd, down 41k tonnes (8%) against relatively high imports in 2019.

” This reduction in trade is not surprising given the circumstances – the coronavirus pandemic disrupted trade and reduced demand in the UK and many other countries, impacting both UK imports and exports,” said Ms Jack.

Overall, the UK managed to maintain a small trade surplus in volume terms (33k tonnes) in 2020, which it achieved for the first time in 2019. However, this includes trade in milk crossing the Irish border for processing, which has been around 700-800k tonnes in recent years. If this is excluded, the UK is a net importer by a considerable amount.

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