Discussion at this year’s North Sheep focused on the future of the sheep industry, with Brexit a hot topic in many forums. Angela Calvert reports.
In officially opening the event hosted by the Smith family, at Tow Law, Co Durham, the Duke of Montrose, president of the National Sheep Association, emphasised the contribution which sheep farming makes to the ecology and economy of the countryside. He talked about the uncertain times which lay ahead, and that the key to managing was to avoid disruption to sheep export markets.
In the Sheep Exports post-Brexit seminar, sheep consultant Peter Morris, who works mainly with St Merryn, gave a processor’s view saying they had to make the product fit the supply chain giving customers the lamb they want at the price and consistency they want.
He said: “Whatever market place you sell in we are in uncharted territory. We do not know what effect on currency and trade the market and access will have. But what is certain – producers will have no control over it.
“So focus on what you can control, whatever your market, serve your customer with what they want.
“As a processor I buy a live animal but do not sell it as a whole carcase. It is about adding value to different parts of the carcase but I need a range of customers to clear all parts and do not make any profit until the last cut of the carcase is sold.
“Yes, we will have to seek new markets but will to have the confidence that we can supply them with the same consistent product time after time and not at the expense of existing customers.
“The UK market will not be effected by currency and tariffs and we cannot neglect that core market. As we look for new opportunities to export other countries will be looking at exporting to the UK, so we must be aware of this and protect our core market.”
UK lamb in France
Remi Fourier, of AHDB’s French office, said: “When the UK is out of the EU it will give us flexibility to control our market and standards. UK lamb has a strong brand and quality standard across EU and worldwide.
“In 2016 France imported 90,000 tonnes of lamb, 40,000t of which was from the UK. One in four lambs consumed in France is British and imports of lamb from New Zealand have declined.
“Home-produced lamb always commands a price premium, but now the gap between it and the price of British lamb on the shelves in France is narrowing. French lamb is of inferior quality compared to British lamb as it is mainly a bi-product of the dairy industry and butcher’s do not like them.
“British lamb is marketed under one brand in the retail sector and there are huge opportunities to increase consumption. Skin packs are only just coming in in France which improves shelf life and presentation and burgers and meatballs are all new to the country too. I am confident the demand for British lamb in France will continue to grow.”
British Wool Marketing Board chairman Ian Buchanan gave an update on the wool market. He said that while the global wool market had been challenging over the last 12 months there was some cause for optimism.
He cited a world reduced demand for wool but particularly from China as one reason for depressed world wool prices. Another factor effecting the UK wool price is the fact that last year’s clip was more discoloured than usual with a larger percentage of yellow wool, something he said was possibly a result of the weather.
With a 2 per cent carry over from last year Mr Buchanan said the average price for wool is expected to be down by about 13 per cent this year, although at the last auction last week the price had been the same as last year.
Mr Buchanan said: “The British Wool Marketing Board continues to work hard on behalf of farmers and would like to point out that we do not buy wool from producers but sell it on their behalf.
“Over the last 12 months we have been working to modernise the business and improve efficiency to make savings. As a result, we have already seen handling costs, which are currently about 40p/kg of wool, reduce by 7 per cent, a reduction of 3 per cent per kilo and expect this to continue to fall over the next year or two. This saving will be passed back to farmers and reflect in the price paid for their wool.
“This year we have also taken back 100 tonnes of wool from independent traders.”
British Wool is also starting a new marketing campaign later in the year to promote the benefits of wool and wool products, particularly carpets to retailers and consumers.
Shearing champions were Yorkshire: L-R: Johnathan Easton, Luke Bancroft and Kevin Sayer.
1. Charlotte Goddards
2. Tom Wilson
3. Henry Atkinson
1. Angela Sanderson
2. Hilary Jackson
3. Susan Martin
1. Ian Cousin
2. Paul Jones
Best breeders stand was awarded to James Whiteford and runner up was S. and A. Reid. Best breed society stand went to the Scotch Blackface stand and runner up to the North Country Cheviot stand. The best indoor trade stand went to Hexham and Northern Marts, with Rumenco taking second place. The best outdoor trade stand award went to Vickers Barrass, with runner-up Mole Valley.