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French sheep meat demand still under pressure

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Staff writer ▼ | May 26, 2016
French sheep
Consumption   Falling demand for imported sheep meat

Consumption of sheep meat in France has been in long-term decline, a situation that has continued into 2016.

While there have been some supply shortages, the economic problems post-2008 have contributed to the lowering of demand.

Household purchase data from the Kantar Worldpanel indicates a reduction of over six percent by volume so far in 2016, taking the period to 17 April, in spite of only a one percent increase in the retail price, and so spending was well down.

This included a disappointing Easter, which, together with Christmas, is the key period for lamb demand, with volumes down by six percent in the four weeks ended 17 April, in spite of no change in the average price. The Institut de l’Elevage is forecasting a reduction of four percent in total sheep meat consumption in 2016 as a whole, on top of a similar reduction in 2015, based on supplies available for consumption.

Other than in 2013, when supplies available stabilised, declines in 2014 and 2015 were in line with the annual falls recorded between 2007 and 2013. Falling demand for imported sheep meat in favour of domestically produced has contributed to this development. Per capita consumption is now down to only 2.5kg, which is well below the 4.6kg recorded in the year 2000.

In 2015, the Kantar Worldpanel data indicated a reduction of almost ten percent in household purchases and, while the average price was up three percent, demand clearly fell as consumer spending was down by six percent.

This was not helped by the poor economic situation and the high price of lamb, and its performance in 2015 was the poorest of any meat, with total household purchases of meat down by less than two percent.

However, the household panel data may have overestimated the reduction unless there was a significant growth in food service.

Only 51 percent of households purchased sheep meat in 2015 compared with 53.6 percent in 2014, a proportion that fell to 26 percent for buyers of lamb younger than 35 years. The quantity bought per shopping trip also declined as did the shelf space allocated to lamb in the modern retail sector.

The European Lamb campaign being undertaken by AHDB Beef and Lamb, in conjunction with Bord Bia and Interbev, is targeting younger consumers (25-45 years old) in order to redress the imbalance in purchases between younger and older age groups.

It is using the slogan being “so simple, so good”. The Institut de l’Elevage is concerned that not only are younger households not buying lamb but that presentation also needs to be improved.

Of the other main consuming countries in the EU, Spain is the third largest and total consumption showed signs of stabilising in 2015 after the sharp declines of earlier years.

Household purchases have been in decline in response to the poor economic situation and last year a reduction of four percent took place in spite of the three percent fall in the average price. On the other hand, food service demand has been boosted by the growth in tourism.

In contrast, in Germany, consumption moved up in 2015 although per capita remains stubbornly below one kilogram and mainly confined to the Muslim population. Another small rise is forecast in 2016 helped by increased imports led by New Zealand, the dominant supplier with a market share of about 60 percent.

In contrast, the economic crisis in Greece has badly hit the sheep sector and consumption fell in 2014 and 2015 as production fell away. Some recovery though is forecast in 2016. In Italy, consumption in 2015 showed some recovery, by as much as 10 percent, given the sharp recovery in production following the blue tongue outbreak in 2014, with a more stable situation expected in 2016.

Three new markets, namely Belgium, Germany and Denmark, are included in the European Lamb campaign, as well as the UK and Ireland, with younger consumers again being targeted. Over a three-year period, the budget for all six countries amounts to €6.5 million including 50 percent co-funding by the European Commission.

Spain is undertaking its own promotion campaign. A summary of the different campaigns was included in the EU Sheep Meat Forum held in February. This was the second of the workshops and the third to be held on 29 June is designed to shape EU policy and will include a presentation by DGAGRI on promotion.

Boosting the demand for sheep meat is vital if the sector is to survive the challenges it faces and not only is promotion important but also ensuring the product meets the need of consumers. Such developments, if they did widen the market, would benefit the UK in particular, being the largest producer and exporter within the EU.

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