Despite the uncertainty surrounding Brexit, sheep farmers have a lot to be positive about as growing demand for quality lamb in the UK and on the continent, is helping to fuel the rise in market values which look set to remain positive throughout the year.

That was the welcoming news from Scotland's National Sheep Association chairman, John Fyall, who said the fall in the value of sterling had bolstered the fat trade from October onwards, which, coupled with Easter falling earlier this year, should help ensure some positivity for the remainder of the season.

Add to that the Islamic calendar moving forward around two weeks – from mid-May to mid-June, and the Eid al-Adha festival which falls on August 21 – which will ensure a large proportion of Scottish lambs will have been cashed by the time the bulk of lamb crop hits the market, and he said farmers have more reason to be optimistic this year.

"Scottish sheep producers look set to enjoy a relatively good couple of years provided exchange rates remain as they are," said John, who was speaking at the NSA Scottish Region agm at Airth.

"The ethnic markets are looking for better quality lamb all the time, which is good for the Scottish industry as they will take a lot of the lambs out of the market earlier in the year and more from Scotland compared to previous years.

"The other good news story for the sector is there are not the same number of imports coming in from New Zealand as more now heads to Asia. The Australians have had a drought to contend with recently too, so they don't have the same sheep numbers."

However, Mr Fyall also stressed there is a huge amount of work to be done, especially when a huge number of Scottish farmers are having to rely on money from the Royal Society Agricultural Benevolent Fund and other charities, instead of money from their own active businesses.

"There is a whole generation of farmers out there who don't have any money and have not been able to invest in their businesses. We have to do more to advertise lamb and sheep farming and take on some responsibility for our own industry," he said pointing out that all farmers have the potential to promote sheep farming either on social media, or in person in public.

George Milne, regional development officer for Scotland, was also hopeful for the future.

"I am as optimistic for the sheep industry as I am of any other sector going forward. We have consistently stressed the need to keep the sheep market and exports alive during the transition period both with the Scottish Government and the UK government.

"We have also stressed the importance of the sheep sector to the well-being of the countryside, and how sheep are so well suited to take advantage of climate change legislation. Both governments have also been made well aware of what would happen if exports and financial support for sheep farming disappeared overnight, in terms of land abandonment, and they appear to understand."

There was more good news to come for sheep farmers this week too as Saudi Arabian authorities have lifted the ban on sheep meat from the UK, with the result that lamb from the UK will soon be heading to this lucrative market in a deal which could be worth £25m over the next five years.

Exports of lamb could begin as early as next month once export certification is finalised and released.

The agreement comes following ongoing negotiations and inspections carried out jointly by Defra, the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB), FSA, UKECP, DAERA and APHA.

AHDB International Market Development Director Phil Hadley said: “This is great news for the sheep industry and for lamb processors and producers in the UK who are keen to look at new, non-EU markets.

“The announcement is the result of ongoing and detailed work between all parties and is a testament to the high regard and quality of UK lamb.”

The news comes hot on the heels of an agreement to progress lifting the BSE ban on UK beef exports to China, as well as exports of a broader range of dairy products, following the Prime Minister’s visit to Beijing earlier this month.

Commenting on the news, Alan Clarke, chief executive for Quality Meat Scotland (QMS), said the announcement would bring a welcome boost to the sheep industry in Scotland and the UK. “While the EU remains by far the biggest market for Scotch Lamb PGI, the opportunities presented by other non-EU markets such as Saudi Arabia sends a very positive signal to the industry in terms of confidence for the long-term future.”

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers in Scotland said: "This is clearly a welcome development for the whole industry. How the opening of this new market translates into commercial export value, however, is a matter for individual meat exporters to consider according to current and future supply levels, the cost of establishing export links into Saudi Arabia, while also assessing the rewards available."