There was a sizeable decline in sheepmeat imports in 2023, the latest available data from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) shows.

The volume of sheepmeat imported for the first 10 months of 2023 was recorded at 4,903t, a drop of 2,734t, or 36%, on the corresponding period in 2022.

Import volumes from Britain, totalling 2,654t, account for 54% of sheepmeat imports in 2023, while imports of 1,538t from Northern Ireland account for another 31%.

These two suppliers also account for the significant drop in imports with British sheepmeat imports falling by some 1,968t, or 42.6% on 2022.

British sheepmeat exports were relatively strong in the first half of 2023, but declined sharply to Ireland thereafter. This is despite UK sheepmeat imports rising by over 7,500t for the first 10 months of 2023.

Reports indicate that traders have been targeting higher-value EU markets such as Germany and Belgium.

Import volumes from Northern Ireland reduced by 540t, or 26%, on 2022 levels.

Ireland remains a vital outlet for Northern Ireland with in excess of 420,000 sheep moving south, including about 340,000 head for direct slaughter and 88,000 head to farms in 2023.

The other notable changes in imports in 2023 is a 67% reduction in imports from Australia, falling from 345t to 115t. Imports from New Zealand totalling 344t fell by 84t, or 19.5%, on the corresponding 10-month period in 2022.