Irish lamb prices are expected to stay strong, at least in the short term, according to Bord Bia’s sheep and livestock sector manager Seamus McMenamin.

He said:

“New Zealand production is still recovering from drought. In addition, almost all of that country’s sheep meat exports are heading for China at the present time.

In turn, this is providing stronger market opportunities for Irish processors seeking to service European markets.

Seamus added:

“It may take some time for New Zealand’s output to get back to previous levels. This will be happening at a time when Chinese demand for sheep meat continues to grow. As a result, New Zealand may not be in a position to focus its supply on European markets for some time to come.

“The enhanced marketing opportunities for Irish lamb are obvious in this context.”

EU sheep meat production fell by around 2% in 2020. This factor, combined with a shortfall in imports, has resulted in some European supermarkets not having enough available lamb to meet demand.

“Developments of this nature would not be positive in the long term as they might deter European consumers from eating this particular meat in the future,” Seamus continued.

The last 12 months have seen a buoyant uptake for Irish sheep meat on the domestic market. Seamus explained:

This has been underpinned by a strong consumer demand for farm quality-assured product.

Looking to the future, the Bord Bia representative foresees increasing difficulties for lamb processors in Britain exporting lamb into Europe. He commented:

“The Brexit trade deal ensures that there will be no quotas or tariffs paid by British companies exporting lamb into the EU. However, there will be increased bureaucracy associated with these transactions. And this will add cost.

“British lamb becoming more expensive should help to open up stronger market opportunities across Europe for Irish lamb.”

McMenamin also confirmed that steps are being taken to open new markets for Irish lamb – Switzerland being a case in point. He added:

Securing new market opportunities will help to secure sustainable prices for Irish sheep producers in the long term.

The Bord Bia representative went on to point out that strengthening market prices for Irish lamb will boost the fortunes of flock owners across the island of Ireland.

This is a direct consequence of the Northern Ireland Protocol, which was built into the Brexit withdrawal agreement. This allows for the unfettered, cross-border movement of sheep.