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Our farmers benefit from French decline

After two years of double-digit growth in lamb prices, it is little wonder that Irish sheep farmers are in an optimistic mood ahead of this year's Ploughing Championships.

Average sheep prices rose by 15pc last year and are currently running 10pc ahead of that this year. With tighter sheep supplies predicted across Europe and in New Zealand, the outlook for the sheep sector remains positive for the coming months.

Irish farmers are set to take advantage of the shortage by retaining even more ewe lambs for breeding than they did last year, when an additional 50,000 lambs were retained in flocks.

Ireland, Britain and Romania are the only three countries that have clearly indicated they are rebuilding their flocks, according to Bord Bia's sheep market expert, Margaret McCarthy.

That puts these three countries in the best possible position to gain from a decline in France's sheep flock and the higher cost of importing New Zealand lamb into Europe.

However, it should be noted that nobody in the sheep sector will benefit from an unsustainable continuous rise in sheep meat prices.

Lamb is an expensive meat compared to beef, poultry and pork, and shoppers will eventually draw a line above which they will not pay.

The current surge in lamb prices is being driven by a shortage of supply and not by demand, pointed out the Bord Bia expert.

"Farmers need steady growth, it's all about sustainability," added Ms McCarthy.

Nonetheless, there has been a steady growth in retail demand for lamb in Ireland for the past six months.

This is the first sign of a recovery in demand since the recession first hit in 2008 -- and it can only be a good sign.

Indo Farming