Exports of UK cheese and butter rose sharply during the first few months of 2019, totalling 18,033t in February. That’s a 4,094t (29%) increase on February 2018 according to figures from HMRC.
Cumulatively, exports of butter and cheese during both January and February totalled 35,878t, 15% more than was recorded in 2018 over the same period.
Butter exports alone during January and February 2019 were up 8,915t (70%) on the previous year, whilst exports of territorial cheeses showed a 17% decrease, though exports of other types of cheese increased by 20%.
Total Cheddar exports were up 1,812t (12%) on the previous year, with exports to the to the EU alone increasing by 16%. Conversely, Cheddar exports to non-EU countries fell by 3,469t (3%).
What’s the cause?
According to Michael Masters, milk supply manager at Cheesemaker Barber’s, the major driving factor behind the dramatic increase in some dairy exports is due to a stockpiling effect provoked by Brexit. In the case of a no deal Brexit, the introduction of costly tariffs could prove devastating. In the effect of a no deal Brexit, tariffs on UK Cheddar exports could be expected to be more than seven times more than those paid by EU countries.
However, there has been some surprise at the fact that exports to non-EU countries has shown a decline this year. Omsco, leading organic dairy co-operative, moved a significant amount of dairy products to the US in the first few months of 2019. Richard Hampton, managing director, voiced his surprise:
“All of our stockpiling has been to non-EU countries…without our intervention that amount would have fallen even more.”