UK beef imports to Ireland in the first half of 2015 were up 15% year-on-year, according to the Livestock and Meat Commission (LMC).

Some 18,633t of beef was imported in the first half of the year compared to the 16,206t imported in the same period in 2014.

On foot of these figures, the LMC said Ireland continues to be the biggest EU market for UK beef.

With several of the major Northern Ireland processors having operations in both the North and the Republic it is likely that much of this exported beef originates from cattle imported from the Republic for direct slaughter and exported back in carcase or primal form for further processing, it said.

While exports from the UK to the Republic have increased year-on-year, the LMC said there has been a notable decline in the volume of beef exported from the UK to other EU countries.

Exports to the Netherlands during the 2015 period totaled 10,295t, a 44% reduction on 2014 levels when 18,406t was exported, it said.

During the first half of 2015 the LMC said there has also been strong declines in the volume of beef exported from the UK to Belgium (down 40%), Germany (down 48%) and Spain (down 28%) although the volumes involved are relatively small.

On a positive note, it said beef exports from the UK to France, Italy and Denmark were similar to 2014 levels.

Exports of UK beef to non-EU markets increased by 32% to 3,467t in the first half of the year.

While the volumes involved are very small, the LMC said it is encouraging to see growth in exports to markets beyond the EU.

July 2015 beef exports from the UK totaled 7,944t taking exports for the year to date to 47,849t, it said.

The LMC said this is a 13% reduction on the corresponding period in 2014 when 54,771t of beef was exported.

Some 93% of UK beef exports went to EU markets during the first half of 2015, a decline of 15% year-on-year, it said.