ANALYSIS - Global sheep meat production has been rising over the last three to four years having seen a gradual slide since heights of 2007.
And almost half of global production is found in Asia, Quality Meat Scotland’s head of economic services Stuart Ashworth told the AHDB Outlook 2015 conference in London last week.
The other region of the world to show some marked growth is Africa, where most of the production is for the domestic market.
However, regions that are traditionally considered the centres for global sheep meat production, the EU and Oceania have seen declines in production between 208 and 2012.
Despite the decline in production in Oceania, Australia and New Zealand are still the main suppliers to the global market, although the South American countries of Uruguay and Chile are also contributing to global trade.
In recent years third country supplies into the EU have been sliding and the Gulf States that had seen a growth in trade in the early part of this century are now seeing a decline in trade.
The growth is being led by China, and Mr Ashworth said that what happens in China can be very significant in its effects of what happens in the EU and the UK.
With the ewe population in Europe growing in the UK and Bulgaria and Romania, production in these regions could rise, but there has been a significant decline the ewe population in Spain France, Germany, Italy and Ireland. This places the UK as the bedrock of supply in the EU.
Only the UK, Ireland and Spain are self-sufficient in sheep meat.
New Zealand will continue to be main source of sheep meat for the EU despite the recent slight fall as the Chinese market is offering potential growth.
The price of New Zealand lamb in the EU is also getting closer to EU prices so that it is no longer the source of cheap lamb and the destination for New Zealand lamb either mainland Europe of the UK will depend on the value of the Euro.
North Asia has seen potential growth for both Australia and New Zealand.
In the UK, there has been a growth in the breeding numbers in recent years and this has seen a growth in production.
There has also been a growth in carcase weights in the UK and a growth in cull rates, but there has been a significant reduction in the ewe and ram slaughterings
In the total sheep meat production figures, the proportion of the lamb crop kill has increased slightly.
This means there has been a greater retention of breeding stock in the current year.
Mr Ashworth said that more ewe lambs are expected to be held back for breeding which will see the lamb crop rise in 2015/2016, but this current year the lamb crop is expected to be average.
The UK has also seen a rise in exports since 2008 with France being the dominant destination, taking 50 per cent of the total. However, there has also been a growth in exports from the UK to Germany and there are growing opportunities in Norway, Hong Kong and Ghana.
With the Asian markets of China and Japan opening up to UK sheep meat, the proportion going to France could fall.
Mr Ashworth said that domestic production in the UK is edging up, but global trading nations are at best stable and some are still in decline.
“Exchange rates are moving against the UK producers, but there are potential new markets to develop and grow,” he said.