Advances in breeding could see Ireland produce an extra million lambs annually, according to a five-year sheepmeat development which Meat Industry Ireland (MII) has presented to Agriculture Minister Michael Creed.
Drawn from growth projections set out in Food Wise 2025, MII’s projections are built upon a programme aimed at rebuilding the national flock to three million ewes and increasing the national lambing average with advances in breeding and management practices.
This would result in increased exports of some 20,000 tonnes, generating increased export earnings of €150m annually and 500 extra jobs in the sector.
MII chairman Philip Carroll said: “We have called on all partners in the sector to support this ambition so that Ireland’s sheep producers and processors can together share in the potential for the sector and secure a greater share of European and international markets.”
He said the sector generates €320m in output value per annum, supporting 34,000 sheep farmers and a further 2,000 jobs in factories and related industry roles.
MII director Cormac Healy said: “The minister’s announcement of a new €25m sheep scheme has given the sector an enormous stimulus which, with this plan, has the capacity to revitalise the sector.
“We believe that existing producers can have confidence in increasing output from their sheep enterprise or that others can re-engage in sheep production as the opportunities do exist to market more Irish lamb in the coming years.
“Processors have invested heavily, the industry has transformed from a carcase- based export business to a fresh, value-add lamb cut supplier with major market diversification into northern European markets. New market opportunities exist for Irish lamb in international markets also.”
Philip Carroll said a production base of at least three million ewes would give the critical mass in the marketplace and a year-round supply of product for premium markets. He is calling for a review of the promotion and marketing of Irish lamb and for resources in the department and in Bord Bia to open new markets.
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