Icelandic farmers launch lamb promotion

By Poorna Rodrigo

- Last updated on GMT

Sheep grazing in Iceland
Sheep grazing in Iceland

Related tags Meat Lamb

Iceland’s lamb farmers are promoting the unique nature of their meat products, in a bid to cope with falling local meat prices caused by overproduction and declining exports.

A spokesman for the Farmers’ Association of Iceland (Bændasamtök Íslands) said a new campaign to promote the unique taste of the country’s “short-tailed special breed of sheep”​ in export markets could make the industry viable. “We believe that Icelandic lamb is waiting to be discovered abroad,”​ the spokesman said.

Icelandic sheep, formerly common in north-western Europe, are now found in just a few areas globally, according to the spokesman. This “strong, hardy race”​, which has adapted well to Icelandic conditions, produces “excellent”​ quality meat, he added.

Export investment

Iceland’s parliament set aside ISK100 million (US$889,205) in December 2016 to promote Icelandic lamb abroad. The aim will be to tell “the story of our lamb, how it is raised in a wholesome environment”​, said the spokesman. An industry trial testing this concept, by promoting lamb in local restaurants as a better choice for tourists over the past six months, has been a success, he claimed. “We are already seeing some increase in sales,”​ he said.

However, right now the industry is struggling. Exports have been “becoming less profitable as the exchange rate of the​ [Icelandic] krona has strengthened in the last two years”​, dean of the School of Social Sciences at the University of Iceland Daði Már Kristófersson told GlobalMeatNews. The spokesman from the Farmers’ Association of Iceland agreed. “Until recently there has been an equilibrium between production and sales of lamb meat,”​ he said.

Three factors – the exchange rate of the Icelandic currency, Russia’s ban on meat imports, which affects Iceland as well as the EU, and low exports to Norway due to its increased domestic lamb production – have left a surplus of lamb meat. The only silver lining has been falling prices of imported inputs used for lamb farming, such as feed.

Overproduction warning

Iceland’s annual lamb meat production is around 10,000 tonnes (t) of which 6,500t are consumed locally and nearly 35% of the production is exported, the spokesman said. However, Dr Kristófersson argued that the government’s “production-related subsidies”​ are leading to lamb overproduction in Iceland. He called for cuts in such incentives.

Traditionally, lamb used to be Icelandic consumers’ preferred meat – a trend that has gradually changed with increased consumption of pork and poultry. “The annual consumption of lamb, pork and poultry is now more or less equal, at 20-25 kg per capita,”​ said the farmers’ association spokesman. While growth in the consumption of pork seemed to have levelled off, poultry consumption was still rising, he said.
As such, “diversification of Iceland’s agriculture”​ – in the past with a clear focus on producing lamb meat – made sense, Dr Kristófersson said, adding that the marketing push might do the trick. “A good market for Icelandic lamb does not have to be very big, because the overall production ​[in Iceland] is relatively limited.”

Related topics Meat

Related news

Show more

Follow us


View more