Sheep stand in a field in New Zealand© WestEnd61/REX/Shutterstock

New Zealand lamb production is expected to fall by far more than originally anticipated, according to Beef and Lamb New Zealand.

Earlier this month, The New Zealand levy board revised its production forecast down from a 2% to 5% drop to 23.2m head, compared with the 2015-16 season.

The mid-season review also anticipated slaughterings of 19.2m head, a 4% fall compared with last season and a further increase from the 2% predicted back in November, according to AHDB Beef & Lamb.

See also: New Zealand sheepmeat imports down 18%

The two revised reductions will have a knock-on effect for New Zealand lamb exports, which are now expected to fall by 3% to 293,000t product weight.

However, the fall in numbers has been slightly offset due to higher carcass weights as a result of an increase in the availability of feed, according to the UK levy board.

New Zealand is the largest exporter of lamb to the UK, accounting for 72% of the 22,646t of total UK lamb import in the first three months of 2017.

This represents a substantial 18% fall compared with the same three-month period 12 months ago.

German market 

The UK lamb trade will be further buoyed by the growing demand for British lamb in Germany.

German lamb consumption has grown for the past two years to 73,000t in 2016, with continued growth forecast for this year, said AHDB Beef & Lamb.

This has been driven by the growth of Germany’s Muslim population, with a tradition of high lamb consumption.

However, with a population of more than 82m people, lamb consumption in Germany is still just 850g per person each year.

UK exports to Germany

The UK’s share of German lamb imports has quadrupled in past decade to 20%, making it the nation’s second-largest supplier behind New Zealand.

A contradiction in trade figures between German imports and UK exports puts total UK lamb meat in Germany in 2016 to somewhere between 8,200t and 10,900t.

The German market is a key target for UK lamb and AHDB, with self-sufficiency at just 40% and domestic production forecast to continue to decline.