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Planning to Make the Most of Lamb Exports
03/03/08

The English sheep industry needs to plan ahead at all levels to make the very most of growing lamb export opportunities over the coming season following the disaster of FMD last autumn, suggests the English Beef and Lamb Executive (EBLEX).

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With over 30% of annual UK lamb meat production typically being exported, overseas customers are second only to domestic multiple retailers in their importance to the industry. What is more, the greater flexibility of export markets to absorb extra lamb makes them particularly significant during the autumn peak of supplies when they can account for up to 40% of national production, helping to underpin farmgate prices.

Under these circumstances, it is hardly surprising that FMD restrictions, which enabled just 16% of UK-produced lamb to be exported during the peak lamb season from August-November last year, coincided with the most disappointing market prices for many years.

In the absence of further disease problems lamb exports are expected to recover from 70,000 tonnes in 2007 to 78,000 tonnes in 2008, helped by a relative weakness of sterling and decreasing production in most other EU countries. Indeed, increased export demand is almost certainly playing a significant part in the recent marked upturn in lamb prices.

To ensure these opportunities are fully realised over the peak supply season will, however, require concerted efforts from all sides of the industry. Especially so in the face of growing competition from chilled New Zealand imports and falling lamb consumption in the UK’s single most important export market – France.

To help boost consumption of lamb in the French market, which has declined by 27% in volume since 2001, EBLEX together with Interbev (France) and Bord Bia (Eire) have launched a three-year campaign under the theme of Agneau Presto (Quick Lamb).

At the same time, a series of initiatives is being undertaken by EBLEX to develop new markets in Southern and Eastern Europe, North Africa and the Far East, promoting the eating quality, meat percentage and availability of British lamb. And ‘fifth quarter’ markets for offal are also being successfully extended in a growing number of European and Asian countries.

While the UK is increasingly looking to export primal cuts in line with the changing international market, the overwhelming proportion of UK lambs will continue to be exported in carcase form. The key requirement from producers is large batches of very consistent quality lambs.

There is a demand for a range of lambs of different confirmation for the various export markets. Our core French export market prefers lighter lambs than our domestic market which is good news for those producers finishing at 18-19kg d/w. To make the most of export opportunities, EBLEX strongly advises English producers with an eye on export markets to enquire with their buyer as to the precise specification required for the supply chain they are supplying.

link Scary Blue Tongue Outlook for Welsh Sheep Farmers
link Agneau Presto - To The Rescue
link Beef and Sheep Supply to Tighten

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