15 May 1998

Resisting other meats must be a big priority

Meeting ever-growing challenges in the sheep industry and

better husbandry were key topics at last weeks Lamb 98

event in Leicestershire. Emma Penny reports

CURRENCY and competition from other meats continue to be major challenges for the UK sheep industry.

That was the warning from MLC chairman Don Curry, speaking at last weeks Lamb 98 event at Wing, Rutland.

"Hopefully the recent fall in value of sterling will continue, but we are extremely vulnerable to macro-economic pressures. These will probably be reduced for producers where countries have joined the single European currency. I suspect even for them some pressure will remain."

Competition from other countries will continue to be a concern, but in reality, producers have to compete with other meats as much as lamb imports, he stressed. "There is no allegiance to lamb as there was a generation ago. We have to compete with manufacturers spending millions to attract consumers.

"Consumer preference is changing – they eat fewer traditional meals, yet most lamb is still sold as traditional cuts. We need to change that, to expand the range of lamb products offered and to ensure that we produce a consistent, high quality meat."

Although benefits of MLC-funded research programmes were being seen, through sire reference schemes and increasing lamb quality, too often producers were not given enough information on market requirements which could help them change breeding policies and other management to meet specifications.

"However, recent internal restructuring should help the MLC do more to respond to these challenges, while industry uptake of assurance schemes such as FABBL will give us an advantage at home and abroad so that we can compete with the best in the market," said Mr Curry.

Competition from other meats is as great a concern as lamb imports, warns MLCchairman Don Curry.