Iceland is facing a shortage of lamb so severe that there have been calls to begin importing lamb from other countries.
Although there are just under half a million sheep in this country of about 310,000, and lamb has long been one the symbols of the nation, exports of Icelandic lamb have been on the rise to meet growing overseas demand. The demand has been so great, in fact, that over 40% of the country’s lamb, or about 3,600 tonnes, was exported in 2010.
While on the one hand positive news, the unexpected consequence is now that lamb available for the domestic market has reached a serious shortage. Rather than reduce the number of exports and divert some of them to Iceland’s home market, one meat packing company has asked for permission to buy lamb for importing.
Leifur Þórsson, the director of Ferskar Kjötvörur, told RÚV that he has not been able to find lamb available except at Sláturfélagi Suðurlands, where he would have to pay a much higher price than he is used to. In order for him to import lamb for sale in Iceland, he needs to get special permission from the Ministry of Agriculture.
Sindri Sigurgeirsson, the director of the National Association of Sheep Farmers, denies that there is any domestic shortage, but does admit that there is less available lamb for many meat packers in the country.