Changes in global demand for sheep meat are resulting in lower EU imports from the global market, but increasing exports. The EU might be a small global exporter but countries such as Spain and the UK are finding new markets.

EU exports to the rest of the world have more than doubled year-on-year between January and July, to 17,100 tonnes. This is the second highest January - July total on record according to the latest data from Eurostat. Several established markets, such as Hong Kong, Jordan and Switzerland, imported more product from the EU. In addition a variety of new markets, led by the Gulf countries are taking increasing volumes. The largest increase was seen in shipments to the United Arab Emirates which were recorded at 1,400 tonnes, a near seven fold year-on-year increase.

EU sheep meat imports during the first seven months of 2017 totalled 97,400 tonnes, a 16 per cent year-on-year decline. A large part of this is due to New Zealand exports to the EU declining by 18 per cent to 84,200 tonnes. In contrast to New Zealand, Australian exports have slightly increased. Between January and July Australia sent 7,600 tonnes of sheep meat to the EU, 8 per cent up year-on-year. NewZealand and Australia have the largest share of EU sheep meat imports.

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Production within the EU has increased by almost 3 per cent year-on-year during the first 6 months of 2017, to 353 thousand tonnes. Slaughtering was recorded at 21.8m head, a marginal increase year-on-year. This implies that carcase weights have increased, including in the UK.

With the UK and Ireland forecast to increase production by 2 per cent this autumn, it will be interesting to see if exports can continue to grow strongly to absorb the additional output.

Market round-up

United Auctions sold 662 store heifers at Stirling on Wednesday to average 200.3p per kg (-12.8p on the week), while 907 store, beef-bred bullocks levelled at 213.2p (no change). One-hundred-and-fifty-eight store, B&W bullocks averaged 138.9p (-7.9p).

C&D Auction Marts Ltd sold a couple of prime heifers in Dumfries on Wednesday to a average 216p, while 4 prime bullocks levelled at 185p.

In the rough ring 42 beef cows averaged 120p and 34 dairy cows levelled at 97.5p.

The firm also sold 1386 prime lambs to a top of £88 per head and 183p per kg to average 161.2p (-5.8p).

Messrs Craig Wilson Ltd sold 1026 prime lambs in Newton Stewart on Wednesday to a top of £87 and 190.5p to average 158p (-2p).