The prospect of sheep prices improving after Christmas looks unlikely, according to Irish Country Meats’ Dermot O’Sullivan.

O’Sullivan spoke at a recent ICSA organised farm walk in Co. Wicklow, where he said it looks like its going to be a difficult January for sheep prices.

Uncertainty caused by Brexit and a weak Sterling, combined with heavier lamb carcasses in December are likely to have a negative impact on prices early next year, he said.

We would hope that prices would stand still, but the uncertainty of Sterling is a major factor.

Along with the uncertainty Brexit creates, O’Sullivan also said that with a late Easter in 2017 is likely to see the demand for sheepmeat remaining low between January and March.

“We hope that the market will come good for the Easter trade.”

He also added that farmers need to monitor lamb carcass weights, as many of the lambs slaughtered are killing out too well, with many producing carcasses 0.5-1kg higher than carcasses seen earlier in the year.

On a more positive note, he added that the industry is looking to sell more sheepmeat into Germany and Belgian markets, and this is likely to reduce some of the reliance on French and UK sheepmeat markets.

Lamb prices to decline by 5% in 2017

According to the Teagasc Outlook, lamb prices are expected to decline by 5% next year, mainly due to the depreciation of Sterling relative to the euro and developments in the market place of competing meats, such as beef.

The outlook for Irish and European Union lamb prices for 2017 is negative, it says, despite tight global supplies of mutton and lamb being forecast for 2017.

These tight supplies are mainly due to a contraction in the New Zealand sheep flock and rebuilding of Australian sheep flocks.

Despite increasing global prices and stable EU production, exchange rate developments and lower beef prices are forecast to leave EU and Irish lamb prices lower than in 2016, the Teagasc outlook for 2017 suggests.