French sheep meat production has increased so far this year but imports and consumption have both been down, according to a report from the AHDB Beef and Lamb, an English organisation for beef and lamb producers.

This year is proving to be a difficult one for the French sheep meat industry, with producer lamb prices falling to their lowest in four years.

Production in the first five months of 2016 has been 8% above the level seen in the same period in 2015, the highest level of production for this period since 2011, according to the AHDB report.

This came as a result of an increase in the slaughtering of both lambs and adult sheep, which were both consistently up during the first five months of 2016, with the exception of April.

This increase in production came despite a decline in the breeding flock recorded in the December census, but the availability of Lacaune lambs in the south of France has been high so far this year, according to the report.

Overall French import volumes were lower during this period but the average unit value dropped by 3%. This left the overall value of sheep meat imports, into France, in the first five months of the year down by 13%, at a value of €189.1m.

The AHDB report outlined that Irish sheep meat exports to France were down by 5%, dropping to 5,700t, in the first half of 2016, while the UK still remained the largest supplier of sheep meat to France with a market share of 39%.

This drop of sheep meat exports to France follows a total decline of around 12% in 2015. The UK and France were the core markets for Irish sheepmeat in 2015, accounting for 63% of total export volumes according to a Bord Bia report.

As overall sheep supplies have been falling in France so far this year, there has also been a decline in the volume of household sheep meat purchases.

According to data from Kantar Worldpanel, the global expert in shoppers’ behaviour, purchases in the year to June 12 were down by 4% compared to the same period in 2015. However, there was a slight rise of 1% in the average price paid during this period.