The Ulster Farmers’ Union is urging consumers to support local sheep producers. The call from UFU deputy president, Ivor Ferguson, follows a period of sustained downward pressure on lamb prices.
Commenting on the current market situation Mr Ferguson said: “Sheep producers experienced ideal lambing conditions this spring and have plenty of lambs on the ground; however prices have collapsed by a quarter compared with 2014”.
As with any price downturn, there are a number of reasons, but the main issue is the weakness of the euro.
“While this may be great for those going on holiday in Europe, for an export focused industry like agriculture a weak euro is very damaging. It increases the quantity of imported meat in the UK, while making our products more expensive in export markets.”
Since the beginning of the year beef and lamb exports from the UK have declined by over 20 per cent, because of the weak euro and Russia’s import ban on EU meat.
“This combination creates all sorts of difficulties for local beef and sheep farmers. We find ourselves competing with cheaper, lower quality imported products not produced to the same standard as those from Northern Ireland Quality Assured Farms,” said Mr Ferguson.
In recent years consumption of lamb in Northern Ireland has fallen sharply. It is estimated that 40 per cent of local consumers do not purchase lamb at all.
“This is disappointing, since lamb produced locally is some of the freshest and most flavoursome in the world,” he said.
Lamb is a key part of the local agri-food industry. Northern Ireland’s landscape and rich biodiversity reflects the land management skills of farmers and sheep production plays a key role.
“I would encourage people to seek out Northern Ireland Farm Quality Assured lamb. By purchasing this local produce you will not only be supporting jobs and the local economy but helping protect our beautiful countryside,” said Mr Ferguson.