UK export volumes of sheep meat in the first six months of 2014 have hit their highest half-year level since 1998, according to EBLEX.
Global shipments totalled 48,000 tonnes in the first half of the year, an increase of almost two per cent compared to the same period in 2013.
Demand from non-EU markets has helped drive the growth, with shipments to these markets 36 per cent ahead of 2013 levels at 10,600 tonnes. The total value of UK sheep meat exports for the period was up three per cent on the year at £183.9 million.
Peter Hardwick, EBLEX head of trade development, said: "Developing our export trade is a key area of EBLEX's work and the figures for the first half of this year are very positive. It builds on the strong performance of 2013 which saw UK sheep meat exports break the 100,000-tonne barrier for the first time since 1999.
"Increases in exports to the Far East have been particularly encouraging, while other key markets included Ghana, Congo and the Ivory Coast in West Africa and Norway and Switzerland.
"Export values are also up three per cent, indicating a strong performance, despite slightly unfavourable trading conditions in terms of currency. A 48 per cent increase in the export of bone-in and boneless cuts has helped and that's very significant.
"We will continue to pursue our strategy to help drive export growth and maximise the potential of full carcase utilisation."
EBLEX has predicted that higher lambing rates and a larger breeding flock should increase the lamb supply for the rest of 2014.
Peter Garbutt, NFU chief livestock adviser, said: "Export markets are vital for the health of our sheep industry, aiding with carcase utilisation and building confidence and demand for higher value cuts."
Bryan Griffiths, chairman in the South West of the National Sheep Association, said that whilst sheep farmers in the region would welcome the news, the levels of optimism will be tempered by current market prices.