The marketing seminar held at Sheep 2012 was titled 'Satisfying the Needs of the Consumer'.
The session focused on all aspects of the supply chain from production at farm level right through to the consumer purchasing the finished product.
This included a market review and outlook, including an update on consumption from Declan Fennell, Bord Bia.
Jonathan Forbes, Kepak Group discussed required specifications to deliver a high quality product to the consumer while James Murphy, IFA, represented the views of farmers.
Production to increase 5%
Bord Bia analysis predicts a 5% increase in production in 2012 when compared to 2011 levels.
According to data from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine for the first six months of 2012, total hogget throughput has increased from 261,138 hoggets in 2011 to 327,092 in 2012 or a lift of almost 66,000 head.
Lamb throughput has remained on par with 2011figures, total lamb slaughterings up to the end of June stood at 546,335.
Throughput of ewes and rams has fallen off from 120,464 head in 2012 to 104,109 or a drop of 16,000 head.
Declan pointed to the increase in hogget numbers, combined with the problem of overweight animals, having a direct negative influence on price.
The average farm gate price to the end of June was €4.91/kg.
This compares to €5.15/kg for 2011 and €4.61/kg for 2010 with 2012 farm gate prices now on a par to 2010.
While prices have reduced on 2011 levels, there was positive news on consumption and retail sales in Ireland.
According to Kantar figures, sheepmeat consumption has stabilised with retail sales in 2012 up year on year.
Declan's analysis showed the total kilos of lamb purchased rising by 18.9% or 2,095kg while the volume per buyer increased by 16.5% or 3.04kg per buyer.
The frequency and spend of the purchase also increased by 13.6% and 16% respectively.
However, it was noted that there is still a difficulty in attracting younger consumers to lamb. This has a significant effect on sales patterns with 89% of lamb sales, in terms of value, stemming from 50% of lamb buyers.
Increasing awareness of lamb as an easy to cook meat through promotional activity in TV, newspapers and in our main export markets is a key focus of Bord Bia's promotional campaign.
When compared to other meat protein alternatives, lamb accounts for 6% of fresh meat retail sales while chicken, beef and pigmeat account for 21%, 31% and 38% of fresh meat retail sales respectively.
Lamb is the most expensive of these at an average cost of €10.71/kg, with beef next at €8.47/kg.
Chicken and pigmeat cost €5.30/kg and €6.34/kg respectively.
Declan commented that there was potential to grow lamb consumers with 51% of Irish consumers declaring lamb as the tastiest of all meats in a recent Bord Bia survey.
Growing lamb sales
Attracting younger consumers is seen as central to increasing lamb sales and consumption.
Quality Assurance (QA) is also at the forefront with Bord Bia analysis showing eight out of 10 consumers having an awareness of the Bord Bia Quality Mark with the vast majority stating that it influences their choice of purchase.
QA is seen as a base entry requirement for sales of sheep meat in Ireland with a greater volume of quality assured product required to have an impact in export markets.
At present, there are 8,500 farms certified in the QA scheme which represents about 45% of total production.
Commenting on increasing the numbers of certified farmers, James Murphy, IFA, said that there will not be an increase in QA members until there is an incentive for flockowners.
"If farmers are rewarded for quality assurance and delivering a quality product, then you will see a positive response in the number of QA members."
Declan said that the trade in France, our main export market, has been more difficult in 2012 due to tighter consumer spending.
He commented that falling production in New Zealand and access to emerging markets may hopefully provide some opportunities to grow lamb sales.
Sweden, Germany and Belgium recorded positives in imports of Irish lamb in 2012. Exports in Belgium increased 25% to 1,600t, 24% to 2,000t in Germany and 36% to 2,050t in Sweden.
This is promising given that these markets are all high value destinations for Irish lamb.
Source: Argentine Beef Packers S.A.
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