French sheep flock falls 2pc to 7.5m head
The latest November/ December livestock survey conducted by Agreste shows the French sheep flock has fallen by more than 2pc on 2008 levels and now stands at 7.5m head.
The decline in the French sheep flock is more marked when looking at the trend over a longer period. In the past five years, it has fallen 14pc. The long-term decline in the French sheep flock is highlighted by the fact that in 1989 it stood at just over 11m head.
Total ewe numbers fell by more than 2pc to 5.04m head in November/December last year. The rate of decline in the ewe flock was offset by an increase of almost 3pc in dairy ewe numbers to 1.3m head. Some producers have readjusted their system of production to meet the needs of the French sheep cheese sector, which is performing strongly. However, ewes bred for lamb production fell by 4pc to 3.7m head.
To address the decline in the French sheep meat production, some aid measures have been approved for implementation this year. These include a standard €21/ewe payment and a supplementary €3/ewe for agreeing to supply designated processing plants. This project is worth €137m to the French sheep industry.
No major change is forecast in French sheepmeat production this year as better fertility rates and a slower live trade will help to offset the drop in the breeding flock. With consumption expected to rise slightly, the French sheepmeat import demand seems set to increase to 133,000t.