Exports of beef and lamb enjoyed considerable growth in 2009, buoyed by a favourable exchange rate and strong continental demand for quality meat products.

In value terms, sales of lamb and mutton increased by 19% against 2008 to nearly £312m, according to new figures from AHDB Market Intelligence. Volumes also increased, up 9% to 94,500t, with sheepmeat exported to 32 destinations.

“2009 exports of sheepmeat show a significant growth, both in volumes and as a percentage of production, which is good news for English sheep producers,” said Jean-Pierre Garnier, export manager for industry levy body EBLEX.

“Nearly 30% of British lamb is now exported. It is heartening to see growth in all our major European export markets, namely France, Belgium, Germany and Italy, but third country exports are rising too.

“The low level of sterling helped maintain high farmgate prices and rewarded sheep farmers. However, prices were also pulled by strong overseas demand for high quality lamb and EBLEX investment in export trade development is showing clear dividends.”

For beef too, exports have been growing fast, with overseas sales up 21% to £257m in 2009. This reflected a 2.4% volume increase to 83,300t, and a significant boost to earning from the weakness of sterling.

“Export growth has been driven by the growth in demand for premium beef in countries like Italy and France,” said Mr Garnier, adding that EBLEX has ambitious trade development plans for 2010 to help maintain the momentum.

Sterling has weakened again recently, reaching 90.7p against the euro on Monday (1 March) – the lowest it has been for three months as fears grow over a hung parliament in the forthcoming general election.

* For more information on exports see Phil Clarke’s Business Blog