October 20, 2016
Future of EU sheep meat sector tackled in workshop series
A series of workshops on the future of the EU sheep sector has been scheduled by the European Commission, with the first forum to take place in mid-November, EU Commissioner Phil Hogan said.
The workshops will reflect on the future development of the sheep sector in the EU in the context of stagnant consumption.
Chaired by John Bryan, a producer representative and former president of the Irish Farmers' Association, the workshops will involve key economic players from the public and private sectors, including representatives from the production, processing and trade parts of the sheep-meat industry as well as representatives from member states with significant sheep-meat industry.
The first workshop will take the form of a stock-taking exercise, seeking to identify the main perspectives and challenges of the EU sheep sector in terms of production, competitiveness and marketing. It will also focus on the economic, social and environmental sustainability of sheep production.
Two more workshops next year are planned to deal with specific themes with presentations by independent experts, which will help guide the discussions. The workshops will culminate with a final report in mid-2016, which will include recommendations relating to the future of the EU sheep sector.
UECBV welcomes workshops
The European Livestock and Meat Trades Union (UECBV), meanwhile, said it welcomes the holding of the workshops on the future of the EU sheep-meat sector, saying it shows a proactive policy of the EU Commission, as well as its engagement to build a sustainable EU agriculture.
"UECBV appreciates that EU Commissioner Phil Hogan listens to signals from the market and the EU economic operators and agrees that there is a crucial need for a strategy aiming for a robust EU sufficiency in sheep-meat output over a ten-year period. This is an important and realistic target that all stakeholders should work towards", the UECBV said in a statement.
As early as 2009, a European Parliament report on the sheep-meat sector highlighted the fragile nature of sheep-meat production in the EU.
Commenting on the announcement of the workshop series, Joe Hyland, chairman of the UECBV Sheep Meat Committee, said that "all facts and data are a warning that the EU sheep-meat sector is declining and without action there will be a further exodus from the EU's sensitive rural areas, in terms of farmers and also jobs, as the sheep-meat industry depends on the welfare of the sheep farmers.
"The announcement of the workshops and recommendations is promising as the EU sheep sector needs visibility. Furthermore, sheep meat will be a case study that might be extrapolated and extended to other agricultural sectors that are facing deep market disturbances if it delivers constructive outcomes".
The EU sheep flock comprises roughly 85 million head, and annual production is around 710,000 tonnes carcass weight. There is significant sheep-meat production in 13 member states (Bulgaria, Germany, Greece, Spain, France, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Sweden and the UK). --Rick Alberto