New Zealand producers are suffering as much as UK farmers and representatives of the two countries’ sheep producers would be meeting soon to see what could be done to improve producer returns, according to NSA chief executive Peter Morris.

“Previously, when it has been felt that NZ lamb has been hurting our market price, the case has been that sheep farmers in NZ have been making money as a result.

“This time it is different and so we have to find a common cause. We believe now is the time to have a meaningful dialogue with lamb producers on the other side of the world”, he adds.

“Retailers are turning the screw on NZ lamb and are dictating to the supply chain and forcing competition out of the system by using the offer of volume to tempt processors into price cutting wars.”

Meanwhile, the cull ewe trade is now almost totally reliant on the Halal meat sector, with about 70% of small-to-medium abattoirs working with ethnic communities to meet demand, reported Norman Bagley, policy director of the Association of Independent Meat Suppliers (AIMS.)

He told farmers the Halal market was strong and vibrant, with a large and varied requirement. As well as cull ewes, large prime lambs within a range of specifications were being sought, although there was growing interest in beef.

“When sheepmeat prices went through the roof four or five years ago, some Halal meat buyers turned to beef and volume has been increasing by 20% a year,” said Mr Bagley.