The sheep industry has been given a welcome boost, with latest export volumes of UK sheep meat reaching a 16-year high.
Figures show that export volumes for the first six months of the year were at their highest half-year level since 1998.
Global shipments totalled 48,000 tonnes in the first half of the year, an increase of almost two per cent on the same period last year.
The encouraging performance, fuelled by growing demand from the Far East in particular, should give sheep farmers greater confidence going into the autumn, the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) said.
According to the figures, produced by industry levy payers body Eblex, shipments of UK sheep meat to non-EU markets were up by 36 per cent on 2013 levels at 10,600 tonnes. The product’s total export value for the period was up three per cent on the year at £183.9 million.
Peter Hardwick, head of trade development at Eblex, said export trade was a key focus of the organisation’s work.
“The figures for the first half of this year are very positive,” Mr Hardwick said. “It builds on the strong performance of 2013 which saw UK sheep meat exports break the 100,000-tonne barrier for the first time since 1999.
“Increases in exports to the Far East have been particularly encouraging, while other key markets outside the EU included Ghana, Congo and the Ivory Coast in West Africa and Norway and Switzerland in Europe.
“Export values are also up three per cent, indicating a strong performance, despite slightly unfavourable trading conditions in terms of currency. A 48 per cent increase in the export of bone-in and boneless cuts has helped achieved this and that’s very significant.”
He said Eblex would continue to drive export growth and maximise the potential of all parts of sheep carcase for use in the supply chain.
Peter Garbutt, the NFU’s chief livestock adviser, said: “Export markets are vital for the health of our sheep industry, aiding with carcase utilisation and building confidence and demand for higher value cuts.
“The fact that they have continued to increase in the face of difficult trading conditions is a testament to the fact that British lamb is valued across the world.”