UK consumption of poultrymeat dropped sharply in the first quarter of this year, despite a slight rise in home production.

The latest figures from Defra show that total poultrymeat supplies entering the market during January-March from all sources (broilers, turkeys, old hens etc) were down by 89,000 tonnes compared with the same period last year, to 521,000 tonnes (standardised as bone-in carcase weight).

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This marks a fall of 14.6% on a year earlier, and is the lowest level of quarterly consumption for more than three years.

At the same time, home poultry production was showing a stronger trend, moving in the opposite direction to its highest quarterly total since the end of 2022.

Output rose by 6,500 tonnes to 501,000 tonnes during the January-March period.

Trade volumes

Balancing up the market during the first quarter was a major shift in trade volumes, which came from a 29% fall in imports and a more substantial 136% increase in exports.

Imports of poultry dropped 44,000 tonnes to 110,000t in January-March, while exports increased by 51,400 tonnes to 89,000t.

Imports have been running at historically high levels for a couple of years, but the current decline took them to their lowest quarterly amount since the beginning of 2021.

Market

This means that the share of the UK market taken by imports has dropped to 22.3%, after averaging 26.2% in 2022/23.

With poultrymeat the dominant sector of the meat market, the large drop in poultry supplies in the first quarter has inevitably dragged down the figure for total meat consumption.

The other three sectors of beef, sheep and pigmeat were all stronger than a year ago, but total meat consumption fell by 53,000 tonnes overall to 1.218 million tonnes.

Beef consumption was up 14,400t to 278,200t; lamb and mutton by 10,600t to 74,200t; and pigmeat by 10,900t to 344,300t.

As a result, poultrymeat’s share of the UK meat market slipped from 48.4% in the first three months of last year, to 46.5% this year.