There are over 70 million sheep and goats in the European Union (85% sheep and 15% goats), often kept in economically vulnerable areas such as mountain regions. Heavy lambs (those over 13kg) are produced in Ireland, light lambs are reared in southern regions like Greece and Italy whereas Spanish and French production is mixed. Main goat producers are Greece, Spain, France and Romania. The EU backs its farmers through income support payments.
Imports account for 20% of the EU’s consumption of lamb, mutton and goatmeat. New Zealand is the EU's biggest supplier, accounting for about 80% of imports, followed by Australia and Mercosur countries. EU exports are around 10% of its total production, and where live sheep are traded mostly to the Middle East and North Africa, sheep meat is predominantly shipped to the Far East.
Market measures for sheepmeat and goatmeat
Sheepmeat and goatmeat are covered by the common market organisation. Therefore, the EU may decide to grant private storage aid and also has the power to use exceptional market support measures when specific circumstances mean that public support is required, for example, in cases of animal diseases or a loss of consumer confidence.
EU regulation 1308/2013 – establishing a common market organisation of the markets.
EU implementing regulation 1354/2011 – on opening annual Union tariff quotas for sheep, goats, sheepmeat and goatmeat.
EU delegated regulation 2017/1182 – provides for a voluntary scheme of sheep carcasses classification.
The EU preserves a system of price reporting for heavy and light lambs, production and trade information. A voluntary scheme of sheep carcasses classification is also provided for in EU delegated regulation 2017/1182.
The European Commission delivers a weekly dashboard of the sheep and goat markets and generate short and mid term reports which lay out general prospects, trends, developments and expectations for this sector.
Trade with non-EU countries
Besides the standard import duties, imports of sheepmeat and goatmeat can take place under a system of tariff-rate quotas allocated to a specific country or open to all (“Erga omnes”). Quota volumes are set in EU implementing regulation 1354/2011 and the use of the various quotas is available on the European Commission's website.
Various committees, composed of government representatives and chaired by a European Commission representative, meet regularly to ensure that the Commission's responsibility for adopting implementing acts is exercised under the control of EU countries.
The committee for the common organisation of the agricultural markets meets regularly to discuss areas such as the evolution of market prices, production and trade in the EU and non-EU countries.
The civil dialogue group and working group on animal products maintains the role of assisting the Commission in maintaining a regular dialogue on all matters related to sheepmeat and goatmeat.