Northern Ireland Update

4th April 2012

As I pen this article at the end of a March which has been one of the mildest on record, ground conditions have finally improved after a horrendously wet winter. Those lambing in late March must be feeling relieved as ewes and lambs got a good start. When reading this you will know if April has delivered as well.

I attended a Red Meat Prospects Conference organised by The Livestock and Meat Commission which turned out to be very interesting with a multitude of information as several speakers were economists. Fortunately all presentations are available on LMC website for those who want to digest it all at their leisure.

The good news is that global sheep meat production and supply is expected to stay tight due to drought and past low prices. There may be a slight upturn in production in 2012 after a steady decline since 2000. China always seems to get a mention whenever we talk about world trade and global economics and I will have to do the same. I did know that China was the world’s largest sheep producing country but did you know that they have over three times as many ewes as New Zealand and Australia put together, isn’t it a good job they can eat all their sheep meat themselves!!

Prices are expected to stay reasonable which means lamb will be a high priced meat for the consumer. If we are to satisfy the consumer our product must be marketed as niche, high quality and a highly differentiated product albeit at a high price. As producers along with the processors we must always be aware of quality and making lamb a desirable eating experience.

As a region which, to date has not experienced Smallenburg Virus, we sympathise with those who have been unfortunate and hope that it does not become the threat we fear.