Current lamb prices are reflective of ‘prevailing trading conditions’

Based on reports from the market, current lamb price levels, while disappointing compared to recent years, are very much reflective of the prevailing trading conditions, Cormac Healy, Director of Meat Industry Ireland (MII) has said.

Healy was responding to comments on current lamb prices and carcass weight limits made by the Irish Cattle and Sheep Association (ICSA) last week, which coincided with a protest outside ICM in Navan.

He also said that processors have indicated that in recent weeks they have seen a dramatic increase in volumes of very heavy lambs which simply don’t meet market requirements.

While the ICSA statement recognises the impact of currency issues on market prices, there are a number of other factors influencing the trade at present.

“These include increased numbers of lower priced UK lamb in the system, the first Lacaune lamb reaching the market in France and a significantly weaker skin and fifth quarter return compared to this time last year.”

Regarding the issue of carcass weight limits, the Director of MII (the body representing the meat processors) said that processors are seeing a lot more lambs of excessive weight and fat cover and this creates a real problem in the marketplace.

“This, no doubt, is due to the favourable weather conditions over recent weeks which has seen very good thrive but is also due to stock being carried over instead of being slaughtered before Christmas.

“No matter what, it is important to market lambs as they come fit.”

Last week, ICSA held a protest outside ICM in Navan, which saw the group hand in a letter, for the attention of company management, demanding an increase in hogget prices and the re-establishment of a 23.5kg maximum carcase weight.

According to Punch, hogget prices are down 80c/kg on this time last year. That works out at almost €20 per animal.

ICSA General Secretary Eddie Punch said that further protests may well follow over the coming weeks.

“While we recognise that currency issues are having an impact on market prices at the present time, there is no justification for the plants to be pulling back prices to the extent that they have.”

Punch said that further protests may well follow over the coming weeks.