While Ireland’s sheep sector enjoyed a relatively successful year in 2014, concern is growing throughout the EU regarding future lamb and mutton consumption trends, according to Bord Bia specialist Declan Fennell.

“The reality is that sheep meat is consumed, in the main, by older consumers,” he said.

“The European Commission has recognised this trend and is committing €7.7m to fund a sheep meat promotional campaign in a number of EU member states over the next three years. Ireland will be included in this initiative, which will specifically target young people. The envisaged campaign will kick off later this year.”

Fennell made these comments courtesy of his presentation to the 2015 Bord Bia Meat Market Prospects seminar. He also pointed out that Ireland’s sheep processing sector has succeeded in developing added value products, which are now growing in popularity throughout Europe.

“Ireland has succeeded in usurping New Zealand as the premier sheep meat supplier to a number of European markets. Sweden is a case in point,” he said.

Irish farmgate returns remained relatively stable within the sheep meat sector throughout 2013 and 2014. The average deadweight price paid last year was €4.75/kg.

“Last year Irish plants slaughtered 2.6m with average carcass weights coming in 0.16kg heavier than the year previous. The size of the Irish lamb crop may well increase in 2015,” Fennell said.

“Sheep meat production is also projected to increase in the UK and New Zealand during the year ahead. However, Spain may well see a significant drop in the number of lambs born in 2015.

“Internationally, the Middle East and China will continue to be the regions which will see significant consumption growth this year. New Zealand will focus its export-related activities on the Chinese market. This is good news for Ireland as it means there will be less competition on Europe’s sheep meat markets from southern hemisphere sources over the coming 12 months.”