UK exports of sheep meat in the first six months of 2014 totalled 48,000 tonnes, an increase of almost 2% compared with 2013 levels according to EBLEX analysis.

It says after a strong year in 2013 this is well above the level recorded for the period 2000-2012 and is the highest level recorded in the first six months of the year since 1998 (16 years ago).

EBLEX says the increase so far this year has been driven by further increases to shipments outside of the European Union (EU). At 10,600 tonnes the volume of sheep meat sent to these newer Non-EU markets in the first half of the year was 36% ahead of year earlier levels.

Of these markets, it outlines that the Far East continues to be the standout performer, showing a 50% rise in shipments so far in 2014 and accounting for over 18% of total exports volumes. The other key markets outside of the EU are a number of West African states such as Ghana, Congo and Ivory Coast and Norway and Switzerland in Europe.

EBLEX also highlights that while shipments to these markets have continued to grow there was a 5% drop in volumes sent to other EU Member States. However, these markets continue to account for the vast majority of UK exports, making up 78% of total shipments. There was a reported 8% fall in volumes to France, a 16% fall to Germany and a 42% drop to the Netherlands. In contrast there were increased volumes to Belgium, Ireland and Italy.

EBLEX says some of this decline in shipments to the EU is likely down to some economic issues, especially in France. However, with more New Zealand product being sent to certain markets, there has likely been less of a requirement for UK sheep meat in some member states.