irn meat market

New Zealand sheep farmers are being encouraged to think like the tourism industry, and aim for the niche, top end Chinese market.

Lamb prices have fallen hard over the past year, with recession in Europe constraining household spending - which means luxuries like lamb have been off the menu.

Westpac economist Nathan Penny points out we've done quite well in the past with targeting wealthy consumers in the UK, Japan and Europe.

He says those consumers are emerging in China, but have yet to really experience New Zealand lamb.

Mr Penny says sheep farmers this year should also benefit from growing Chinese demand for wool.

Meanwhile our beef farmers could be in for a happy 2013, despite the high New Zealand dollar.

Nathan Penny says producers here are benefiting from drought in the Northern Hemisphere, which is pushing up competitors' feed costs, particularly in the United States.

He says Americans still want their hamburgers during drought, and that's created opportunities for pasture-based producers like New Zealand.

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