Irish sheepmeat exports hampered by French farmer protests

Irish sheepmeat exports to France last year were back 12% on 2014 levels to 16,000t, according to Declan Fennell, Sheepmeat Sector Manager with Bord Bia.

Overall sheepmeat imports into France from exporting countries in 2015 were back by 8% to 93,600t, figures from AHDB show.

France is Ireland’s number one market for sheepmeat Fennell said, and three things contributed to the drop in exports.

The French farmer protests of July and August last year put pressure on the multiples and caters to stock French meat instead of imported products, he said.

“They made a very pertinent point and this then put pressure on the retailers for the remainder of the year to source French sheepmeat.”

Secondly, there were macro-economic factors at play in France and that consumer spending played a role.

“Retail spending for sheepmeat was back 10% in volume terms last year.”

Thirdly, country of origin labelling had a role to play in the drop in imports going to France last year.

In April, country of origin labelling came into effect which required a label to declare where the animal was reared and slaughtered.

Fennell said that some French distributors, when packing sheepmeat for French multiples want to have a consistent product for them.

The country of origin labelling also would have had some impact on the carcass trade, he said.

Looking at 2016, Fennell is confident that France will remain our number one market for sheepmeat exports.

“The pressure points are still there, there are still protests and there is growing pressure on the government there but it will remain our number one export market.”

He said that Ireland will “navigate around” any difficulties we may face in exporting to France.

Looking at sheepmeat consumption in France, data from Kantar shows that 76% of household sheepmeat purchases in 2014 was made by consumers 50 years and over.

Meanwhile, consumers between 35 and 40 accounted for 18% of sheepmeat purchases and under 35s accounted for 6%.

AHDB attributes the decline to younger consumers being squeezed considerably by the economic problems in France over the past six years.

It also attributes a preference for charcuterie and increased reliance on products on promotion to the decline.