Irish sheepmeat exports face competition from increasing UK supplies

Irish sheepmeat exports to the UK are likely to come under increased pressure this year, as UK sheep numbers will remain high in 2016.

The UK market is of major importance to the Irish sheep industry, as it is the second largest buyer of Irish sheepmeat.

And, an increase in domestic supplies in the UK could dampen the demand for Irish sheepmeat products on the UK market.

Bord Bia figures put Irish exports to the UK at approximately 13,000t in 2015, making it Ireland’s second largest export market after France.

Figures from Bord Bia show that the UK accounted for over 20% of Ireland’s sheepmeat exports in 2014, nearly 50% lower on a volume basis than exports to France.

Recent changes in the currency market could also impact on the volume of sheepmeat exported from Ireland to the UK.

A weaker Sterling makes Irish lamb more expensive in the UK  and at the same time makes UK lamb better value for buyers in the UK and the important French market.

UK sheep supplies

UK sheep supplies will remain high during 2016, according to the AHDB, due to stability in the ewe flock and a high number of hoggets carried over from last year.

It reports that the UK ewe flock remained at the same level in December 2015 as December 2014, when the national breeding flock stood at 14.6m head.

As a result, the UK lamb crop this spring is expected to be at similar levels to last year.

An increase in hogget slaughterings is also predicted for the first half of this year, as hogget throughput remained low during the first three months of 2016.

The latest UK sheep census, which was carried out in December 2015 shows that the number of sheep under one year of age in the UK increased by 5% on the previous year to reach 8.49m head.

According to the AHDB, this would represent a large increase in the number of lambs carried over into 2016 from the already high levels in 2015.

The increase in carry over combined with a lower hogget kill means that the number of old season lambs remaining to be slaughtered will rise sharply in the next couple of months, it predicts.