Dáil Éireann - Volume 674 - 11 February, 2009

Written Answers. - Sheep Sector.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food his plans for the future development of the lamb industry with particular reference to retaining existing export markets, establishing and developing new outlets and ensuring recognition abroad for a quality Irish product; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5304/09]

  Deputy Brendan Smith: Approximately 70% of Irish sheepmeat production is exported, mainly to the high-value EU market. Traditionally, France has been the major export market for Irish lamb and in 2008 it accounted for more than 50% of Irish sheepmeat exports. The French market, however, has been in decline due to a fall in consumption and demand. Also, Irish sheepmeat is facing strong competition on the French market from the UK due to a weakened sterling and from New Zealand, which con[614] tinues to build up its presence of chilled lamb on the EU market. However, the effect of the decline in exports to France has been lessened by increased exports to other markets. Exports to Sweden and Denmark have increased significantly in recent years.

The number of new potential markets for Irish lamb is limited due to the relatively high cost of the meat and to cultural factors, as lamb is not widely eaten in many countries of Eastern Europe. As a result, promotional efforts are being targeted at maintaining and developing existing markets, including the home market. In relation to providing the customer with a quality assured product, the Bord Bia operated Lamb Quality Assurance Scheme, which was established in 2007, now has 7000 participants and it is hoped to increase that number this year.