By Farmers Weekly staff

NEW Zealand lamb marketeers are gearing up to grab a bigger share of the market in the New Year as the latest figures show a large drop in demand.

Results from consumer survey group Taylor Nelson Sofres Superpanel show that, although all red meat consumption continues to fall, lamb was hardest hit with a 9% drop in the four weeks to 19 September.

While UK lamb is holding its own, demand for frozen New Zealand lamb has fallen sharply over the past two months, with up to a third less being sold compared with the same period in 1998.

But John Mabb of Meat New Zealand reckons TNSS figures for the rolling 52-week period show demand is actually 1.3% higher while UK product fell 1.2%.

“Recent promotional activity for British Lamb has distorted the figures.”

The aim now is to take on domestic hogget supplies in the New Year, by rebranding chilled NZ lamb as a high quality product.

“Our message will be that New Zealand lamb is just that, and not hogget, and will, therefore, eat better.”

It will also have to compete against small frozen English lamb entered into private storage aid, which is proving popular among abattoirs, reports the Meat and Livestock Commission.

Applications for the scheme, which requires lamb to be held in frozen stores for between three and seven months, filled the 2350t limit (equivalent to half a weeks kill) within days.

That will also ease pressure on the domestic market, says MLC sheep economist, Lesley Green.

Combined with larger numbers of lambs being marketed compared with last year, she adds: “Prospects for the final quarter look favourable, but a strong £ makes exporting meat difficult. But we expect the carry-over of lambs into the New Year to be lower this year.”