There is a growing amount of UK sheepmeat exports to non-traditional EU markets, the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) says.

Its figures show that shipments to Austria, Denmark, Poland and Sweden have all doubled in the five years since 2010.

While these markets still only account for 2% of UK exports to other Member States, there is potential for future growth that AHDB Beef and Lamb says are recognised.

AHDB says the EU remains critical to UK exporters, accounting for 85% of total UK sheepmeat trade.

The eight traditional markets namely France, Germany, Ireland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, Spain and Portugal account for 98% of the total, it says.

However, with UK sheep production increasing again and with some of these traditional markets not showing growth in recent years it is critical for the UK to seek out opportunities on these non-traditional markets, it says.

AHDB says shipments to these destinations increased by 10% in 2014, compared with a year earlier to 1,900t.

Austria is by far the largest of these new markets, and has consistently been importing more sheep meat from the UK than both Spain and Portugal, two of the UKs more traditional markets, since 2006, it says.

UK shipments to Austria have increased steadily since 2011 and in 2014 were up 5% year on year at 880t, it says.

AHDB says Denmark is the second largest, although trade fell by 10% last year to 570t, partly given cheaper prices of domestically produced meat such as pork.

Sweden is the third largest non-traditional market. Shipments amounted to 215t in 2014, more than double the level seen in 2013, it says.

Volumes from Poland have increased sharply, reaching 190t in 2014, up five-fold on the previous year, AHDB says.

There is some interest in UK product with the domestic industry having largely collapsed following entry to the EU, it says.

The UK is the largest supplier of sheepmeat to Austria with a 30% market share last year, based on Austrian import data, AHDB says.

The UK also holds nearly 20% of the Polish market and is the second largest supplier, while it also accounts for over 10% of the Danish market, it says.

Despite the notable growth over recent years, AHDB says that the trade picture does not appear to have been as positive to these non-traditional markets in the first four months of 2015.

While the strength of Sterling could be affecting the competitiveness of UK product, to some extent the drop off in trade may reflect the seasonality of lamb exports from the UK, it says.

None of these markets have a tradition of consuming large volumes of sheep meat, with per capita consumption averaging no more than 1kg, AHDB says.

According to AHDB sheepmeat production is also low in these countries, and, as interest in sheepmeat as an alternative to the main meat products increases then the UK is in a strong position to exploit such developments.