UK lamb exports to France and Germany rose last year, filling a gap left by a reduction in product from New Zealand, AHDB figures show.
In France, production over the 12 months to November 2019 was virtually unchanged from 2018 (-0.7%), at 75,000t.
The tonnage was supported by an increase in carcass weights as slaughter figures dropped by 1.2% to 3.85m head.
Total French imports were also reasonably static in the 12-month period, down just under 1% annually, to 79,300t, according to AHDB analyst Jennie Tanner.
However, despite the relatively steady situation, imports from New Zealand suppliers fell by 16% as Kiwi suppliers targeted Asian markets instead.
Buyers in Asia are looking to alternative protein sources to fill the void left by African swine fever, which has reduced China’s production capacity by 40%.
Meanwhile, France’s other main suppliers of lamb – Ireland and Spain – also switched, with both countries reducing exports to France by 4%.
The UK was already France’s largest supplier of fresh and frozen sheepmeat and well placed to capitalise on the shortfall, Ms Tanner said.
UK exporters increased volumes by about 8% to about 35,000t in the 12 months, plugging the gap, she explained.
As with France, home-grown lamb production in Germany was unchanged on 2018 at about 22,000t for the year to November 2019.
But total fresh and frozen sheepmeat imports into Germany dropped by 11% over the 12 months to 38,000t.
The major cause was a 15% decline in New Zealand exports to Germany at about 17,500t for the year.
UK supplies to Germany jumped by 15% to more than 10,000t, but this has not been enough to compensate for reduction in volume from New Zealand, Ms Tanner pointed out.
The knock-on effect was a reduction in sheepmeat exports from Germany to its biggest markets – the Netherlands, Austria and Sweden.
Latest sheep prices
Figures for the latest UK sheepmeat prices show lamb values have continued to move upwards.
In the week ending 28 January, SQQ old-season lamb (25.5kg-45.5kg) reached 218.04p/kg, up 5.43p/kg on the previous seven-day period.
Throughput was down by almost 15% to 17,068 head.
Prices for all lamb sold in the week to 28 January – 23,648 head – also increased by more than 5p/kg to 214.78p/kg, with the weekly kill down by more than 12% to 23,648.
During the week, cull ewe values rose by 3.06p/kg to finish the week at £73.99/head as throughput reduced by almost 8% to 6,029.