Steady growth for sheepmeat, says QMS

Global sheep production is showing steady growth, but it is not likely to hit the peaks seen in 2007, Quality Meat Scotland’s Stuart Ashworth told delegates to the Outlook conference.

Ashworth told the beef and lamb break-out session at the AHDB-organised conference that while increases were occurring, it was more interesting to see where that production was taking place, with increases in Africa, Central America and the Caribbean.

He said the UK was 100% self-sufficient in sheepmeat production, but the export market remained very important. Global trends impact upon the home market: “What happens in China in relation to sheepmeat can be significant to UK producers.”

While France continued to dominate as the UK’s number one export destination, he said other opportunities were opening up, in particular markets in Norway, Hong Kong and Africa.

He told delegates the UK was one of the few countries in the EU to experience growth in the ewe population: “We expect the sheep breeding numbers to increase slightly in 2015 and increase further in 2016,” Ashworth added.

He played down the idea of New Zealand lamb being a challenge to domestic producers: “The New Zealand price is closer to the EU, it’s not a source of cheap lamb that is going to destabilise the market.” The importance of the UK market for the Kiwis has also been lessened, he reported.

Pressure on the price of lamb had reduced retail prices and led to some increases in consumption, but it remained an expensive meat, and the currency situation was proving confusing, he said: “Why hasn’t the lamb price collapsed in the face of sterling’s movement? I’m struggling to find a reason for that.”

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