Call for clarity on global sheepmeat demand and consumption

DEVELOPING countries will dominate the global consumption of sheep and help strengthen the future prospects of the UK’s industry.

Despite uncertainties over the future support and regulation of the industry, Arwyn Owen concluded there is a positive future ahead for UK sheep farmers and spoke about climate change, production efficiency and, in particular, the sector’s market.

Mr Owen, who is farm manager for the National Trust’s Hafod Y Llan, said his confidence stems from the perspective he gained while travelling to China, Australia and New Zealand.

He called for a renewed clarity about the future requirements of consumers for sheepmeat in both developed and developing nations.

“The global picture is one where developing markets will stimulate demand and dominate consumption volumes,” he said.

“In the short term, these markets will offer opportunities to export lower value cuts and may become an increasingly attractive outlet for Australia and New Zealand, thereby displacing supply destined for the EU,” said Mr Owen, who farms 1,820 hectares (4,500 acres) in Snowdon, North Wales.

Mr Owen said of China, as a developing country, the pace of change was incredible and was the country to watch in the future.

“There are 100 cities in China with a population of one million; in 2020 there will be 200 cities.

“The speed of development is mind boggling and the investments being made are on new infrastructure and not on areas such as historical sites, which are so prevalent in other countries.

Massive growth

“I come from Wales with a population of three million, compared with China’s 1.35 billion.

“The rate of population growth is there for everyone to see - the country is driving the Australian economy, it uses 42 per cent of the world’s coal and it is relatively self-sufficient in food.

“The influence that country has as it grows is immense as will be the import opportunities.”

Mr Owen said while the levy board was already investigating opportunities for sales to developing markets, more research was needed to help quantify the future export potential and the volume needed to fulfil demand.

He also believes real opportunities lie in expanding sales to the UK and European Halal market, which is already significant in volume sales.

“New Zealand is geared up to service ethnic minorities and is well tuned to that market. We have a big ethnic population in the UK and they are using 30 per cent of production, which includes ewes as well as lambs.

“It’s not just the case of selling it directly to market, it’s about identifying opportunities in the public health and services sector, where there are new opportunities to existing outlets.”

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