There is significant scope for the UK to grow export markets for sheepmeat, according to Mike Gooding, the director of meat processing chain Farmers Fresh.

The farmer owned company, which has two abattoirs in England and one in Wales, has been developing new markets in the Far East and Middle East over the past three years.

“Wherever you go in the world, you will find a Kiwi or an Aussie already there selling lamb and doing a very good job. Simply turning up and waving a flag does not generate profitable trade. We need to do much, much more,” Gooding said.

Speaking to National Sheep Association members, Gooding said that it is a “common myth” that lamb from New Zealand (NZ) and Australia is cheaper than lamb from the UK.

He presented figures which showed that average farmgate prices in NZ and Australia caught up with the UK from 2010 to 2020.

“They are now almost on a par. We have just got some seasonal variation. The idea that NZ and Australian lamb is entering the processing chain as a cheaper product is not true,” Gooding said.

Also speaking at the online event, Ben O’Brien from Beef and Lamb NZ said that NZ-based sheepmeat exporters have been mainly focused on developing markets in Asia over the past decade.

This trend is reflected in how NZ has used its tariff free access to the EU market for sheepmeat. Its EU quota has not been fully used since NZ agreed a trade deal with China in 2009 and only 47% of the quota was utilised last year.

O’Brien said that although NZ has been exporting lower volumes of lamb to the EU and UK, it has been able to concentrate on selling higher value cuts here because cheaper cuts now tend to go to Asian markets.

“That is what having additional market access can mean,” he said.