Scottish sheep farmers should focus on encouraging more consumers to eat lamb, rather than being preoccupied by global competitors, says a leading French processor.

Laurent Macquet, whose Calais-based firm processes 15,000t of sheepmeat a year, including more than 200,000 lambs from Scotbeef, in Bridge of Allan, also urged producers to improve the consistency of sheepmeat presented to processors.

And he said Quality Meat Scotland should be focused in its marketing activity, concentrating on the key October to December period.

“The competition is not between Scotland, Ireland, Wales, France, Australia and New Zealand, but to do everything we can to encourage people to enjoy eating more lamb so everyone can share the benefit,” said Mr Macquet.

Meanwhile, concern about the substantial reduction in breeding ewe numbers in the UK and Ireland in recent years was voiced by one of the largest sheep farmers in the north east of Scotland.

Alan Ross, of Strichen-based Ross Bros, said ewe numbers in Scotland had fallen by 200,000 over a five-year period.

“However, lamb kill increased in Scotland in 2004/05 and my gut feeling is things can only get better.

Prime lambs have been selling at 85 a head and cull ewes have doubled in value over the past year,” he said.

Mr Ross said the key to the industry’s future would be improvement in uniformity of carcasses and operating as cost-effectively as possible.

carolmclaren@lineone.net