Annual spring lamb price drop takes hold of the market

Becoming an all too common trend, the now annual spring lamb price drop seems to have truly taken a hold of the market.

As last week drew to a close, procurement managers worked to drop spring lamb quotes by 20c/kg. The move has continued as some processors have knocked a further 20c/kg off quotes this week, bringing the total fall to 40c/kg in some locations.

This week’s quotes are 560-575c/kg (excluding Quality Assurance payments), which means that some 20kg lamb carcasses have been devalued to the tune of €8 in the space of just seven days.

Procurement managers are clear in their assessment of the market and put the blame firmly at the foot of demand.

One lamb buyer said that the price fall was necessary to remain competitive in the UK and French markets, while another was quick to point out that the fall was not down to the high levels of throughput seen in Irish lairages.

In addition, buyers have said that the sourcing of lambs for the Muslim festival of Ramadan is now all but complete.

Like the spring lamb trade, hogget quotes have also taken a tumble in recent days. Generally speaking, factory buyers are offering 480-500c/kg for these lots – a drop of 20c/kg on last week’s levels.

Ewe prices have also fallen by 10c/kg and most buyers are now offering 240c/kg for well-fleshed cast lots.

Supplies

Spring lamb supplies have surged in recent weeks. Some 36,761 spring lambs were slaughtered in Department of Agriculture approved sheep-meat export plants during the week ending May 28. This was a jump of over 10,000 head or 41.8% on the week before.

Ewe and ram supplies have also increased with an additional 1,285 head being slaughtered during the week ending May 28.

However, hogget numbers continued to decline as just 14,546 head were processed during the second-last week of May.

Week-on-week sheep kill changes:
  • Hoggets: 14,546 head (-3,371 head or -18.8%).
  • Spring lambs: 36,761 head (+10,830 head or +41.8%).
  • Ewes and rams: 9,098 head (+1,285 head or +16.4%).
  • Total: 60,407 head (+8.734 head or +16.9%).

When looked at on a cumulative basis, some 926,428 sheep have been slaughtered in Irish plants this year – an increase of 124,096 head or 13%.

Source: Department of Agriculture

Main markets

According to Bord Bia, the British sheep-meat market remained strong last week due to higher demand. However, it says, strong numbers of spring lambs were brought forward for slaughter.

And, as a result, the SQQ live price for lamb in England and Wales stood at around 584c/kg.

In France, Bord Bia says, the trade has seen a decline on the back of poor demand and an abundance of imported lamb on the market.

There were no retail promotions reported last week, it says, while Grade 1 Irish spring lamb made the equivalent of 645c/kg during the early part of last week.

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