Southland-based meat processor Alliance Group said it was developing meat export opportunities in Iraq.

Alliance said it had just completed its first full year of exporting directly to hotels, restaurants, and catering companies in Iraq after previously shipping product through Jordan.

Exports of fully branded "Pure South'' lamb to Iraq have increased by about 35 per cent in the past year, Alliance said in a statement.

As it stands, most sheep meet that is sold in Iraq is fresh, mainly due to a lack of reliable electricity for refrigeration.


Alliance said Iraqi consumers would increasingly turn to frozen lamb as the investment in new infrastructure gathered pace.

The cooperative is focusing on Iraq's major business cities including Baghdad, Basra, Mosul, Erbil and Sulaymania, as well as the holy cities of Karbala, Najaf and Samara.
It was also targeting the country's semi-autonomous northern territory Kurdistan, which boasts better marketing structures and higher disposable incomes.

Murray Brown, Alliance's general manager of marketing, said the cooperative's in-market partner, Qibbla Halal, had two factories in Baghdad and Erbiland, processing a range of meat cuts sourced from Alliance Group supplier farms in New Zealand.

"Iraq is a very wealthy country with vast national resources,'' Brown said. "With increases in tourism, especially religious tourism, red meat is the common product for these sectors,'' he said.

"We see Iraq as a land of opportunity and the outlook is extremely promising given how central and important meat is across all the different ethnic and religious groups in the country,'' he said.

Alliance is owned by about 5000 farmer shareholders and is the world's largest processor and exporter of sheepmeat.