New Zealand's biggest sheepmeat processor and exporter, the Alliance Group, is finding plenty of opportunity in a market that many would regard as highly unstable: Iraq.
Alliance has just completed its first full year of exporting directly to Iraq and has increased sales of lamb to the hotel, restaurant and catering trade there by more than a third.
New Zealand meat usually went to Iraq through countries such as Jordan but marketing general manager Murray Brown said Alliance had broken new ground with direct shipments through an in-market partner.
"So they've already got linkages into that market, and they've set up an infrastructure in Iraq as they saw good opportunities for New Zealand lamb," Mr Brown said.
The market had gone from 300-400 tonne to more than 1000, which was significant for a market the size of Iraq, he said. Much of the product was for medium to top end customers, such as restaurants, caterers and hotels.
Infrastructure was a challenge, with a lot of domestic product having to be fresh as there were no chilling or freezing facilities. However, Alliance had gained access to a coldstore which controlled and distributed its products, Mr Brown said.
The Alliance Group is also expanding into other emerging markets. The co-operative has established a new lamb trade to Brazil and it's exporting to Peru, following that country's decision to reopen the doors to New Zealand lamb and beef after a 13 year gap.