Ireland eyes lamb boom

By Oscar Rousseau

- Last updated on GMT

L-R: Cormac Healy, director MII; agriculture minister Martin Creed; Philip Carroll, chairman of MII
L-R: Cormac Healy, director MII; agriculture minister Martin Creed; Philip Carroll, chairman of MII

Related tags Domestic sheep Lamb Livestock

Meat Industry Ireland (MII) has presented the government with a five-year plan to grow Ireland’s sheep flock, a move that could create 500 jobs and boost profits.

Plans drawn up by MII include rebuilding Ireland’s flock to three million ewes and increasing the national lambing average. This five-year development plan for Ireland’s sheep and lamb industry was presented to Ireland’s Agriculture Minister Michael Creed last week.

Outlines for developing the lamb sector are based on growth projections defined in the Food Wise 2025 report – a 10-year strategic development plan compiled by Ireland’s Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

MII is hoping that rebuilding Ireland’s sheep and lamb herd will result in exports increasing by 20,000 tonnes. This would increase earnings for lamb producers by around €150 million per year, leading to 500 new jobs in the meat industry.

Tied to global market

Philip Carroll, chairman of the MII, called on the lamb industry to “support this ambition​” to help Ireland “secure a greater share of European and international markets​”.

Ireland’s sheep and lamb sector is fairly dependent on meat exports, as domestic consumption only amounts to around 30%, with UK consumers preferring British lamb, according to the Food Wise 2025 report. Sweden, Germany and Belgium are among the key growth markets for Irish lamb exports, while Hong Kong is the most important non-EU market for Ireland’s lamb industry.

Ireland’s lamb sector generates €320m per year and supports 34,000 sheep farmers in addition to 2,000 jobs in meat processing plants and back office support roles.

Sweet in Sweden

The announcement by the minister of a new €25m sheep scheme has given the sector an enormous stimulus which, together with this ​[sheep development] plan, has the capacity to revitalise the sector after many years of stagnation due to a lack of focus and ambition regarding its future potential,​” said Cormac Healy, senior director at MII.

Over the years Ireland’s lamb industry has evolved from a carcase-based export provider to one that supplies fresh and value-added lamb cuts. This has led to a sizeable diversification of the markets to which Ireland exports lamb, with strong growth enjoyed in Sweden, along with other northerly European countries.

We believe that existing producers can have confidence in increasing output from their sheep enterprise or that others can re-engage in sheep production as the opportunities do exist to market more Irish lamb in the coming years.​”

Related topics Meat

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