French beef and veal imports fell by 4% in the first six months of 2015, with lower shipments from Ireland, Germany and Italy, according to the latest figures.

The organisation for the English beef and sheep industry (AHDB) said that in contrast imports from the Netherlands, which is France’s number one supplier, were up 3% which was largely on the back of increased shipments of bone-in-forequarters.

Shipments from Poland continued to increase to the French market with shipments up almost a quarter on the year, it said.

This, according to AHDB, gave Poland 8% of the market share compared to as recently as 2011 when it was only 2%.

While the UK is a small supplier, with a market share of 4%, AHDB said that trade was up over 26% in the first six months of 2015, despite the strength of Sterling.

It said that growth was mainly in frozen product, although the chilled boneless trade was also higher in the first half of 2015, it said.

In France itself, total beef and veal production in the first half of 2015 was up by over 1% on the year earlier with France being the key driver of the EU cow beef market, AHDB said.

Cow beef accounts for just over 50% of beef output in France and according to AHDB in the first half of this year cow beef production was up over 4% year-on-year.

It said that this is mainly a reflection of increased culling of dairy cows and the end of capitalisation of the dairy herd, given the difficult milk market of recent months.

On March 1, it said that the dairy herd was marginally below that of a year earlier, after increasing slowly in 2013 and much of 2014.

French exports have increased by just less than 1% compared with the first six months 2014, however in order to maintain volumes prices have been subdued, it said.

The French beef market, AHDB says in both in terms of production and consumption, is the largest in the EU, so developments there inevitably have consequences for the EU beef market, especially in the case of cow beef as a whole, as well as the UK.

The outlook in France for cow beef is on-going higher production in the remainder of this year which could add to the already difficult trading conditions given the strength of Sterling against the euro, it said.