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A global lamb shortage equivalent to three-quarters of New Zealand’s production is looming, but the continued erosion of NZ sheep flock means the country is not in a position to satisfy that demand, according to the Otago Daily Times.

The paper cites a report by Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) which calculated that within five years there could be a 300,000-tonne void in lamb supply, and Meat and Livestock Australia is looking to fill it.

The FAO analysis forecasts growth in demand of 1.6 million tonnes in the next five years with most of that occurring in China, but which will be filled by local supply.

Beef and Lamb NZ chairman Mike Petersen said while he agreed with the findings, demand was starting to slip in traditional lamb export markets such as Europe, but he said two things were needed to capture younger consumers.

They had to be educated on the taste of lamb and how to cook it, and exporters had to supply the meat in consumer-ready packs.

Sheep flocks around the world were shrinking, creating new opportunities and Petersen said New Zealand should be able to capture some of that global demand by improving on farm productivity.

New Zealand exported more meat from a flock of 30 million sheep now, than it did when the flock was 70 million in the 1980s, and he said there was still room for improvement.

“There’s still scope to increase the amount of sheep meat we are sending out of New Zealand from a lower capital ewe flock, through productivity improvements,” he said.

New Zealand sheep meat exporters have identified China as an emerging market, but the FAO report said demand would come from markets other than China.

Exporters are tackling China individually after a joint effort was abandoned, and Silver Fern Farms has said it would look at having a presence in one large city where it would sell premium cuts.

Beef and Lamb NZ was forecasting a 14,000-tonne increase in lamb production in the coming year, but last month had to revise that down due to a lower than expected kill for the season.

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