Bleak forecast for Scottish sheep sector
Published:  09 January, 2007

The Scottish sheep industry could be facing another decline in its breeding flock unless returns to producers improve, experts have warned.

Breeding ewe numbers in Scotland have fallen more than 700,000 to 3.5m over the last seven years - the situation is mirrored throughout the UK with total figures falling from 19.8m ewes to 15m in the last nine years.

Unfortunately, prices have also fallen, down around 3% compared with a year ago, despite the tightening of supplies. According to MLC figures, the average per capita consumption in Scotland is 4kg a year, compared with 10kg in Wales.

The industry is now warning hill farming cannot survive without subsidies.

According to Scottish Executive figures, during 2005, the average net farm income of a unit with a breeding flock in the less favoured areas, which covers 85% of the Scottish land mass, amounted to £8,400. Meanwhile, a typical farm received £25,000 in direct support.

The changes to the CAP and creation of the Single Farm Payment is likely to accelerate the reduction in sheep flocks, the sector has warned.