Comment: It’s been a good news week for the Irish sheep industry

Hats off to Bord Bía for pushing out the news that the value of Irish sheepmeat exports increased by just over 7% in 2013, when compared with the previous year. Given the week that’s in it, one could certainly call it perfect timing! The relevant figures are €220 million in 2013 and €212 million in 2012. Adding to this positive mood music for the sheep industry is the fact that Spring lambs have been making up to €6.50/kg in the marts this week.

But dig below the frontline export figures away and one quickly uncovers the true nugget of gold, which is the growing demand for high value Irish lamb cuts in countries such as Sweden, Belgium and Switzerland. In essence, three of Europe’s most affluent economies are developing a taste for locally produced sheepmeat. It stacks up as a marketer’s dream challenge to me.

A propos nothing at all, I remember finding myself in Stockholm two years ago looking for somewhere to put the head down for the night. Eventually I traipsed into the lobby of the Royal Viking Hotel and made my way to the reception. Upon being told of the room rate – without breakfast mind you – I felt the immediate urge to ring my better half so as to discuss the feasibility of taking out a second mortgage on the family home. So the more sheepmeat that we can push in the direction of Sweden the better!

The past number of months has been marked by several important announcements by both Bord Bía and government ministers regarding the success if the Irish redmeat sector in markets around the world. And all of this is tremendous news. But livestock producers – quite rightly want to see a proportion of this success trickling down to the farmgate.

The current CAP reform debate has centred on the distribution of the EU support monies that will be available from 2015 onwards. But let’s not forget that in December 2012 Europe’s Heads of State agreed a significant reduction in the EU’s overall budget up to 2020. And, as a consequence,  the CAP finances have been trimmed accordingly. All of this means that Irish farmers need a better return from the marketplace, just to keep treading water!

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