A cocktail of low consumer purchasing power, punitive exchange rates, cheap imports and supply surfeits are being blamed for a dip in UK lamb exports of nearly a quarter in the last 12 months.
The news comes from Hybu Cig Cymru-Meat Promotion Wales’ (HCC) latest market bulletin.
It says sheepmeat exports during 2015 were significantly impeded by the strength of Sterling against the Euro, as well as cheaper imports from other countries and subdued consumer demand for lamb.
This sent UK sheepmeat exports falling to 79,400 tonnes, a decline of 22 per cent, some 22,500 tonnes less in 12 months.
The Eurozone accounts for 19 in every 20 sheepmeat export sales and, with shoppers in general feeling the pinch, most European countries recorded reduced shipments.
France, which accounts for 54 per cent of the market, witnessed a 16 per cent decline and exports to Germany, Ireland and Belgium fell 2 per cent, 10 per cent and 11 per cent respectively.
Imports of sheepmeat to the UK during 2015 on the other hand rose by 0.3 per cent to 92,800 tonnes, attributed to an increase in shipments received from New Zealand of 6 per cent to 68,800 tonnes, amounting to nearly three-quarters of all imports.
Although New Zealand sheepmeat production fell during 2015, imports to the UK increased as other key markets, in particular China, took smaller quantities due to reduced demand.
Other imports to the UK declined, with Australia, Ireland, Spain and France witnessing volume declines of three per cent, 19 per cent, 14 per cent and 23 per cent respectively.
The timing of these imports took its toll on the UK market and was a major contributory factor to the increase during the year.
As far as beef was concerned, 2015 saw the UK importing more beef than it exported - 8,400 tonnes or 5 per cent up on 2014, as UK exports fell by 10 per cent to 100,500 tonnes.
Shipments from Ireland, the main importer of beef to the UK, accounted for 182,400 tonnes, or 68 per cent of the total volume.
The second largest beef importer to the UK was the Netherlands, with 8 per cent of all volume at 20,400 tonnes, a rise of 21 per cent on 2014.
Looking forward, HCC expects exports of red from the UK for the coming year to continue to be influenced strongly by Sterling’s exchange rate with the Euro.
It says if the estimated reductions in volumes of lamb from New Zealand transpire it could be beneficial to the domestic market, but adds that any optimism must be guarded - with the global marketplace demonstrating considerable volatility and making the future import and export performance notoriously difficult to predict.