The sheep and goat sector in the EU: Main features, challenges and prospects

31-08-2017

Sheep and goats grazing on meadows in the countryside are part of the landscape and cultural heritage of many European countries. They are a source of employment in disadvantaged agricultural areas and the high-quality traditional products they yield are broadly recognised as the result of a sustainable and multifunctional form of agriculture that contributes to preserving the environment and social cohesion in rural areas. Yet, the EU sheep and goat sector has been experiencing economic and structural difficulties in recent decades, mainly involving a consistent decrease in livestock numbers, following outbreaks of contagious diseases and policy changes in public funding schemes. With a population of about 98 million animals and a production that accounts for a small share of the total EU livestock output, the sheep and goat sector does not ensure self-sufficiency. That is why the EU is among the world's main importers of sheep and goats, mainly from New Zealand and Australia. Moreover, as sheep and goat farming is among the less remunerative agricultural activities, it does not encourage investments or new entrants from younger generations of farmers. Several EU-level policy instruments are available for providing support to this sector in its capacity to deliver both food and public goods, such as landscape and biodiversity conservation. However, considering its low profitability and the fact that production is mostly located in less favoured areas, EU stakeholders are recommending the inclusion of specific policy measures in the framework of current discussions on the Common Agricultural Policy post-2020, as well as the adoption of communication and promotion measures to strengthen the position of the sector in respect of EU consumers' choices.

Sheep and goats grazing on meadows in the countryside are part of the landscape and cultural heritage of many European countries. They are a source of employment in disadvantaged agricultural areas and the high-quality traditional products they yield are broadly recognised as the result of a sustainable and multifunctional form of agriculture that contributes to preserving the environment and social cohesion in rural areas. Yet, the EU sheep and goat sector has been experiencing economic and structural difficulties in recent decades, mainly involving a consistent decrease in livestock numbers, following outbreaks of contagious diseases and policy changes in public funding schemes. With a population of about 98 million animals and a production that accounts for a small share of the total EU livestock output, the sheep and goat sector does not ensure self-sufficiency. That is why the EU is among the world's main importers of sheep and goats, mainly from New Zealand and Australia. Moreover, as sheep and goat farming is among the less remunerative agricultural activities, it does not encourage investments or new entrants from younger generations of farmers. Several EU-level policy instruments are available for providing support to this sector in its capacity to deliver both food and public goods, such as landscape and biodiversity conservation. However, considering its low profitability and the fact that production is mostly located in less favoured areas, EU stakeholders are recommending the inclusion of specific policy measures in the framework of current discussions on the Common Agricultural Policy post-2020, as well as the adoption of communication and promotion measures to strengthen the position of the sector in respect of EU consumers' choices.