Rise in sheep meat production forecast

UK sheep meat production is set to rise again this year, according to AHDB/Eblex forecasts.

June 2014 census figures show that the UK lamb crop was the largest since 2006, as the result of a larger breeding flock and better seasonal conditions. Eblex said that the breeding flock, as at December 2014, is expected to have shown a small increase, continuing the recent trend.

Eblex continued: “With conditions favourable at tupping, prospects for this year’s lamb crop look positive.

“Overall, UK sheep meat production as a whole is forecast to rise by 4% in 2015, with the sharpest increase in the early part of the year, before stabilising in 2016. This would take production for 2015 to 309,000 tonnes, which would be the highest figure since 2009.”

The weakened euro could make exports to Europe more challenging. However, Eblex predicted that with increased production, volumes are expected to hold up or even increase slightly, although possibly at lower prices in sterling terms. With robust demand from the global market and constrained supplies from other major exporters, non-EU markets have the potential to show further growth, it added.

Imports dropped 6% in 2014, due to a reduced New Zealand lamb crop and the continuing emergence of China as a key market for the global trade, and only a small rise in NZ production is expected this year. Furthermore, Australian production is likely to be “significantly reduced”, so the global supply situation will remain tight. Eblex therefore expects imports to remain around the same as in 2014, meaning the UK may again be a net exporter of sheep meat in 2015.

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