Why are UK cheddar imports rising?

Published 2 October 18

Previously, AHDB has investigated the growing UK trade deficit in cheddar, identifying increased imports of EU cheddar as the main driver. The question is, why are we importing more EU cheddar?

We can start by identifying which factors aren’t causing the increase. For example, it doesn’t appear to be because we are producing less of our own cheddar, as production in both H1 2018 and H2 2017 were up on their year ago counterparts. It’s also unlikely to be that demand from consumers is growing; fluctuations in retail sales have been relatively small compared to the shifts in imports. There is a possibility that demand is growing for cheddar to use in food products, but this is hard to verify.

With the available data suggesting we can rule out a shortage developing for cheddar, it seems more likely that imports have increased in order to build up stocks. It is interesting that the increase in cheddar imports in H1 2018 vs H2 2017 came almost entirely from Ireland. This leads to the possibility that the increase could be the result of some de-risking actions by Irish manufacturers, building up stocks in the UK to mitigate potential border and customs issues post-Brexit.

UK cheddar imports by origin