Asia and the Middle East have helped boost red meat exports from the UK in what has been a somewhat challenging start to the year.

With Brexit and Covid impacting shipments of beef, lamb and pork to Europe during the first three months of 2020, markets outside of the EU have helped bolster trade.

While exports of beef to non-EU countries have dropped, shipments of pig meat, including offal, have risen in both volume and value, increasing 31% to 63,000 tonnes, worth in excess of £110m – up 42% compared to the same period last year.

Sheep exports to non-EU countries also rose 30% in volume and, importantly, 46% in value – worth £6.6m to the sector.

Trade was particularly helped by increased demand from Asia and the Middle East – areas of strategic growth for AHDB, having recently engaged representatives in the regions to support and facilitate trade development.

AHDB head of Asia Pacific Jonathan Eckley said the Far East remains a key market for red meat exports from the UK, and is continuing to identify opportunities in new and existing markets to help boost trade.

He added: “The start of the year has been incredibly challenging for our red meat exports and while the third country demand has helped to boost trade, it hasn’t been able to offset the fall in shipments to the EU.

“However, the Asian markets have once again proven to be hugely important for our exports. While some countries are importing smaller volumes from the UK, the overall value is increasing for example Singapore, which has this year seen an 87% increase in the value of our pork shipments.”

Demand for UK pork was also evident in the Philippines with the value of shipments increasing four-fold compared to the same period last year – bringing a £10m boost to the sector. Exports to South Korea also grew and were valued at £2.5m.

Sheep exports, including offal, to Kuwait increased 10-fold in the first three months of the year, and shipments to Ghana more than doubled.

Due to strong domestic demand for beef in the UK, exports have not grown as strong as other meats, but regions such as the Philippines have seen growth in both volume and value.

South Africa has also seen shipments increase three-fold and there was a 6% in export volume to Ghana.