In a recent analysis of the retail lamb market in Great Britain the Livestock and Meat Commission in Northern Ireland (LMC) report that higher prices are evident but lower volumes are being purchased.

It is well documented that the Great Britain retail market remains a very important outlet for the lamb sector both North and South of the border in Ireland.

With a significant proportion of Irish lamb destined for GB multiple retailers. The LMC say an analysis of developments in this market is useful to understand trends and developments in the local sheep trade.

The LMC in a recent market bulletin used Kantar Worldpanel data to provide an indication of trends within the GB retail market, looking at price, volume sales and expenditure.

According to the LMC retail lamb prices had been at unprecedented levels in 2011 and early 2012, before falling sharply in the spring of 2012. It says to a large degree this mirrored the farmgate trade at that time and up until the first half of 2013 retail lamb prices had been coming under pressure relative to earlier levels.

The LMC went on to say in the second half of 2013 retail lamb prices recovered to some degree and in the 12 weeks ending 2 February prices averaged £8.17/kg. This was 5 per cent higher than previous year’s levels with a similar trend evident in the last four weeks of this period.

It remarks the result of higher prices has been a decline in the volumes of lamb sold in retail outlets with sales down by four per cent in the 12 weeks ending 2 February. During the last four weeks of this period, volume lamb sales were down by seven per cent. This decline in sales has manifested itself in two ways, it noted.

Firstly, the proportion of consumers purchasing lamb fell by four per cent over the 12 week period. Secondly, those consumers that continued to purchase lamb bought smaller volumes. The average weight per purchase fell by one per cent.

The LMC highlighted during the 12 week period ending 2 February 2014, lamb mince sales were up by nine per cent year-on-year. However, during the same period, volume sales of all other major lamb cuts fell. It says the data shows lamb stewing sales were down by 18 per cent. Sales of leg roastings were down by nine per cent with shoulder roasting joints down by six per cent.

It concluded the net impact of higher retail prices and reduced volume sales was slightly higher expenditure in the 12 weeks ending 2 February. However, in the last four weeks of this period, consumer expenditure on lamb was down by three per cent.