The global sheep market requires more confidence for the long term, according to NFU livestock board chairman Charles Sercombe. Sercombe, who also chairs the European Commission Advisory Group on Sheepmeat, is due to address livestock producers from around the world at the International Sheepmeat Forum in Brussels. The sheep industry has faced a challenging 12 months both in the UK and in many other countries.

“Last year’s devastating marketing season had a huge effect on our members’ businesses and many farms are still feeling the effects.“It is apparent that many of the issues facing sheep farmers are the same the world over. On the recent sheep industry mission to New Zealand, I met farmers who have faced similar issues as we do in the UK due to sustained poor prices and we discussed the negative impact price volatility is having for sheepmeat producers wherever they farm.

“However, I do believe we are turning the corner. Producer confidence has dipped but all the ingredients are there for a successful season. There will be less lamb on global markets and we’re seeing increased demand for lamb, especially from China.

“It’s vital that a change in attitude throughout the whole supply chain takes place. Now is the season that our farmers should be seeing the lamb market strengthen and British farmers expect agriculture’s biggest customers, the supermarkets, to be fully behind British lamb and working to help create a dynamic, vibrant sheep industry for the future.

”The National Sheep Association chief executive requested an ‘urgent’ face-to-face meeting with Tesco chief Philip Clarke after comments made by customer service representatives for the retailer said UK lamb ‘was not in season’ at the peak of domestic production.

And the NFU, as part of its regular Shelfwatch examination of supermarket shelves, said it found the level of imported lamb in Tesco and Asda stores as a ‘major disappointment.’