18 Nov 2009

Lamb shortage hits processing companies

10:34 am on 18 November 2009

Meat and Wool New Zealand says it's not aware of specific plans to source foreign lamb to make up a shortfall in meat for export, but backs any such move.

The two big meat chains, Silver Fern Farms and Alliance, are reported to have been holding talks in Uruguay, seeking stock for out-of-season foreign sales. Neither company is commenting for the moment.

Meat and Wool New Zealand's chairman Mike Petersen says there's a shortage of local meat for out-of-season export orders.

"Our winter is a very difficult period for us to supply because of our seasonal grass growth curve," he says.

"We are always looking to boost production in New Zealand but it is very costly to do so ... with an all grass system."

He says meat companies are holding talks but he is not aware of any specific proposals.

Mr Peterson says one reason for the shortage is an increase in conversion to dairy production.

He says there's been a big increase in sheep meat prices in the last 12 months, but until there are better long term returns for sheep and beef production there will be no halt to dairy conversions.