Demand for Irish sheepmeat in key markets has weakened recently, according to Bord Bia’s Seamus McMenamin.

Speaking to Agriland at the 2022 National Ploughing Championships in Ratheniska in Co. Laois this week, McMenamin said: “Supply and demand are dictating price and it’s hard to know what prices will be like in the coming months.

“All I can say is that demand has weakened. It’s a very high cost protein, in comparison to beef say.

“[Bord Bia’s] response to this weakening demand currently is to increase our marketing activity in key export markets.

“Those key markets would be the EU, where 75% of Irish lamb that we export goes, while 15-20% goes to the UK.

“So obviously our key focus is the EU market. We are looking to increase promotional activity in countries such as France, Germany, Belgium and also in Switzerland,” McMenamin said.

Speaking about the reasons behind this weakening in demand for Irish lamb in these key markets, McMenamin commented: “There’s a couple of factors. The main factor behind this, however, is the high price point.

“We’ve seen less promotional activity within the retailers, with a lot of lamb bought on promotion – which impacts on the volume of lamb that is being sold.

“We have seen food inflation of 10-12% and as much as 14% in places in eastern Europe, which is an emerging market for sheepmeat.

“It is a challenging situation to get customers to consider buying lamb.

“However, it’s not all negative either. We are in a situation where global sheepmeat supplies are not expected to see any major recovery,” he added.

“In New Zealand, there has been a further reduction in its ewe flock by 2%, and then also the redirection of product to China – where import demand has increased in the last two months, so that is quite positive.

“We are also seeing the further redirection of sheepmeat into the middle east, north Africa and the US, which means less product is coming into the EU market competing against ourselves,” McMenamin stated.