A visiting British sheep farming leader is confident Europe will continue to be New Zealand's highest-paying sheepmeat market, despite its rush into China.
National Farmers Union livestock board chair Charles Sercombe is in New Zealand with other British sheep sector representatives for talks with their New Zealand counterparts.
China has surged ahead of Britain as New Zealand's biggest single sheepmeat market and Mr Sercombe said the focus on China could ease some of the pressure on British farmers having to compete with New Zealand lamb in their market.
But he did not believe China would replace Britain and Europe because it was taking the lower value cuts off the sheep carcass.
"I think Europe will continue to be a very strong and lucrative market for New Zealand," Mr Sercombe said.
"Our consumers are used to eating joints, and particularly legs of lamb and the racks of lamb, the most expensive bits. It sort of balances the carcass up for the processors in New Zealand if they can continue to put the legs and the racks into (Britain) and the rest of the carcass and other bits to the developing world, that seem to want to do that."
The British sheep industry was also focusing more attention on export markets outside Europe, such as Asia and the Middle East.