While prices in many sectors of Irish agriculture have declined this year, the economic value of the sheep sector is set to rise in 2015, according to the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney.

He has said that to date in 2015 the average factory prices are around 2% higher than the amount in 2014.

Minister Coveney said the combination of buoyant prices, steady slaughtering supplies and increased carcass weights mean that the output of the sector is almost 4.5% ahead of last year in terms of economic value.

The Minster said growth in the sector will come from an increase in consumer demand and export market opportunities as well as from improved technical efficiencies.

“Therefore my Department continues to search for new markets in cooperation with Bord Bia, Irish Embassies abroad and the meat industry.

“For example the market in Hong Kong opened for exports of sheepmeat in 2014 and exports of sheepmeat were valued at almost €9 million in 2014,” he said.

This year Teagasc forecasts EU and Irish lamb supplies to increase marginally.

It says with the increase in supply likely to be matched by modest improvements in demand for sheep meat, the outlook for EU and Irish heavy lamb prices is stable.

This year the competitiveness of Irish lamb exports in the UK market (and against UK lamb on French markets) was supported by the on-going weakness of the Euro against the pound sterling.

According to Teagasc, with stable to improving lamb prices, improved lambing conditions in 2015 and aggregate input costs that are forecast to be largely stable in 2015, profit levels in Irish sheep production should be above those achieved in 2014.

According to Teagasc, gross margins on mid-season lowland lamb enterprises are forecast to be 8% higher than those recorded in 2014.