The EU imported 1% more sheepmeat in the first half of 2015 compared to the first half of 2014, according to AHDB, the organisation for the English beef and sheep industry.

Despite this increase, it was still 1% below the high level of imports in the first half of 2013, it said.

The majority of the increase came from New Zealand, AHDB said while volumes coming from almost all other countries actually declined.

Shipments from New Zealand were up by 6% on the year, despite a decline in production in New Zealand in the same period.

With the volume of Kiwi sheepmeat going to China declining sharply in the first half of the year, this has resulted in more product available for export to other countries, it said.

Additionally, AHDB said Sterling has strengthened in value against the New Zealand Dollar, making New Zealand exports to the UK more competitive, while the euro has also remained stronger against the New Zealand Dollar than against other currencies.

This increase led to New Zealand’s share of the EU market overall increasing to 86%, up 3% on the year earlier, it said.

Volumes coming from Australia, the second largest supplier to the UK, it said were down by 9% on the previous year which in turn has led to Australia’s share of the EU market overall falling to 9% – down 1% from 2014.

This follows stable production in Australia combined with higher volumes going to the US and the Middle East, which AHDB says is leaving smaller volumes for export to the EU.

Shipments from a range of other countries fell sharply, with volumes from Macedonia, Chile and Uruguay falling by 23%, 37% and 36% respectively, it said.

According to AHDB, the percentage of EU sheepmeat imports in the form of cuts rose by one per cent to 97%.

Exports from the EU28 to third countries were down by half in the first six months of 2015, which it said was mainly driven by a large decline in shipments to Hong Kong.