Halal sheep demand offers UK farmers opportunities

UK sheep farmers can tap into a large and growing halal market without even selling beyond Europe, a seminar heard.

Eblex export manager Jean-Pierre Garnier told the levy board’s halal seminar how Britain produced 43% of Europe’s lamb, so was ready to feed the expanding Muslim population.

UK exports can target a big section of Europe’s 44 million Muslim shoppers, particularly in France and Germany, Mr Garnier said.

The halal market could represent about 45,000t of sheepmeat demand each year and, by rough estimates, could be growing about 5% annually.

See also: Lamb prices could enjoy support until Easter

“As the population of the world is growing, it means the halal market is growing as well,” Mr Garnier said.

“But we don’t necessarily need to go all around the world when around the corner [in the EU] we have a target market of 15.4 million people.”

Mr Garnier also said there was also potential outside the EU, but only with smart marketing.

China is one of the fastest growing halal markets, due to the country’s sheer size.

Demand from the UAE is smaller, though Saudi Arabia and Kuwait could be new destinations once export approval is granted. 

But in the Middle East and Asia the UK struggles to compete on price with New Zealand and Australia, so exporters have to focus either on high-value cuts or fifth quarter products.

“In third [non-EU] countries, we target niche markets and we target the fifth quarter,” Mr Garnier said. “We cannot target the core market because the price difference is very, very large.”


Attitudes towards halal

Limited understanding of Islam is the main reason behind non-Muslim shoppers’ distrust of halal meat, the Eblex halal seminar was told.

A pioneering study has shown Islamophobia and animosity were the top two reasons why some consumers avoided halal beef and lamb, followed by ethical concerns and worries about what friends and family might think.

Revealing the results, the University of Hull’s Dr Haseeb Ahmed Shabbir explained that research into attitudes towards halal was in its infancy.

When this research began two years ago, there had been just 29 studies into consumer perceptions of Islamic religious slaughter, none of which were from a non-Muslim perspective.

“Ethical concerns and issues that halal is barbaric are not as strong drivers for animosity towards halal as Islamophobia,” Dr Shabbir said.

“The sector is booming but the research body and the knowledge is still very limited.”

See more