Rise in butter imports pushes up fat deficit

Published 4 September 18

Last week AHDB published the trade deficit for a number of key dairy products. This showed an increase in the UK trade deficit for butter. Combining information for other fat-based dairy products we can build up a picture of the trade situation for butterfat for Jan-Jun over the last three years.

In H1 2016, the UK had a 3k tonne trade surplus in butterfat, driven by 7k tonnes more fat exported as oil than was imported. During that six month period, butter and cream imports matched exports, whereas there was a 4k tonne fat deficit for fat spreads.

The situation has shifted significantly for the first half of 2018. Butter imports outstripped exports by 11k tonnes of butterfat. Cream imports have risen by 35%, whereas exports have dropped by 22% leading to a net 2k tonnes trade deficit in fat in cream. Oils still recorded a 7k tonnes net surplus in fat, but this isn’t enough to offset the trade shift in the other products.

The chart below converts trade volumes into butterfat equivalent using estimates of the fat content of each product.

UK trade in butterfat Sep18