How important are EU and UK beef imports under concessionary schemes?

There is now some interest in the various EU beef quotas, the extent to which the UK utilises them and how they might be allocated following Brexit. Virtually all beef imported into the EU, including that consigned to the UK, comes under concessionary schemes given the high import tariffs that otherwise apply.

While some are WTO tariff quotas, others are mainly the result of bilateral or multilateral trade agreements, plus the EU’s Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP). As a result of the WTO agreement countries are subject to most-favoured-nation (MFN) status, which treats all countries equally such as when customs tariff rates are reduced.

An analysis of the high quality beef (HQB) and autonomous beef quotas has already been published here. There are also a number of other quotas that are utilised to varying degrees by EU and UK importers. The frozen beef and veal quota that amounts to 53,000 tonnes, was fully utilised in the WTO year July 2015 to June 2016, and imports are subject to an ad valorem customs duty of 20 per cent.

Other EU quotas are being used to a much smaller degree. This includes frozen beef intended for processing. For manufacture into A products, which are defined under the WTO agreement, there is a quota of 50,000 tonnes in the year ended June 2016, but only four per cent was utilised. Beef is subject to a 20 per cent customs duty. There is also the B products quota of 13,703 tonnes, which was not used at all in 2015/16. Product is subject to a 20 per cent customs duty, plus a specific duty according to cut. There is also the “baby beef” quota, eligible to countries in the Balkans. This amounts to 13,125 tonnes and only 255 tonnes was taken up by Serbia, in the year ended June 2016.

The 800 tonnes quota for frozen thin skirt, which is subject to a four per cent customs duty, was not utilised at all in 2015/16. Ukraine has recently been given a quota of 12,000 tones, but only 100 tonnes was utilised in the calendar year 2016. The annual quota for Chile amounted to 2,250 tonnes in the year to June 2016, with a utilisation rate of 21 per cent. There is also a quota of 1,200 tonnes of dried boneless beef from Switzerland, of which 54 per cent was utilised in the year ended June 2016.

The GSP allows developing countries to have easier access to EU markets. Southern Africa, especially Botswana, Namibia and in the past Zimbabwe, have been supplying beef to the EU for a number of years. Under the GSP there are no import tariffs nor quantitative restrictions.

Given that the full import tariffs are so high, imports falling into this area are negligible. However, in the past, quantities have been notable, especially for premium chilled hindquarter cuts. For example, for chilled and most frozen boneless cuts, the tariff amounts to €3,034 per tonne, plus a 12.8 per cent ad valorem customs duty.

The UK does not utilise any of the EU tariff quotas to a major degree. Data for 2016 is not yet available but for 2015, under the MFN, 6,700 tonnes was imported into the UK free of duty and 8,300 tonnes was imported duty paid, mainly at 20 per cent ad valorem. For the former category, this presents nine per cent of the EU total and for the latter, seven per cent. For UK importers, the GSP scheme is important and in 2015 they imported 8,600 tonnes under it. This accounts for as much as 50 per cent of the EU total. Product is supplied by Namibia and Botswana, although shipments have fallen back by around 20 per cent in 2016, based on data for the first 11 months. The fact that some countries are supplying beef to the UK under various EU concessionary schemes would suggest that they would want to continue to supply following Brexit.