Shipments of sheepmeat to France from Ireland were down 10% at 7,600t in the first six months of 2015, according to AHDB.

The organisation for the English beef and sheep industry (AHDB) said that this was the largest fall in shipments to France in the first half of the year.

This drop in exports, it says was on the back of lower Irish sheepmeat production in the first half of 2015.

Last year, Irish sheepmeat exports to France was also down at 18,000t with a value of over €90m

Overall, shipments of sheepmeat to France fell 7% to 47,000t in the first half of the year and follows the general trend of declining demand for sheepmeat in France, AHDB says.

According to AHDB, this has been further exacerbated by protests by French farmers over imported products, combined with the situation in Calais.

Despite the fall in overall imports, AHDB says that volumes from the UK, the largest supplier of sheepmeat to France, were reported to be up 6% on the year at 20,000t.

However, despite reporting a similar volume, export figures from UK HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) actually suggest a decline in shipments in the first six months of the year, it says.

AHDB points out that as has been the case since September last year, the HMRC data may not show the true picture and could be subject to revision.

Overall declining volumes were seen both in the first and second quarters of the year, although the falls were sharper in the second quarter, it says.

The majority of sheepmeat imported by France came in the form of carcases, AHDB says with 52% of the total volume coming in this form, one point higher than the same period in 2014.

Falls were also seen in imports from New Zealand and Spain, down by 3% and 10% respectively, it says.

The average unit value of French imports actually increased marginally, AHDB says meaning the fall in the total value of sheep meat imported to France was not as sharp as the decline in volumes.

According to AHDB, the total value of imports fell 4% to €263.1m.