‘Fixed-price contracts needed to ensure future of early spring lamb enterprises’

Sheep farmers can only consider producing early spring lambs in the future if fixed-price contracts, which return a viable price, with processors are put in place.

That is the view of the IFA’s National Sheep Chairman John Lynskey; he added that there has been a poor price return for early Easter lamb this year.

The poor farmer price contrasts dramatically with some of the high retail prices on display for spring lamb over the Easter, he said.

“Retail prices of €35/kg for lamb rack and €24/kg for lamb leg were totally inflated.

Some new-season lamb legs were offered at €70 each at retail level, when farmers were being offered only €110 to €120 for the entire lamb.

Meanwhile, Lynskey also said that Ireland holds a unique position on the EU export market over the next two months. It presents the lamb processing sector with a ‘real opportunity‘ to positively drive the lamb market as well as returning viable prices and incomes back to sheep farmers, he added.

“As hogget numbers dry up over the next few weeks, our processors will be in the driving seat on new-season lamb on the export market; as UK production is much later than Ireland.

“Factories must use this opportunity in a positive way and stay away from their usual exaggerated and damaging price cuts at this critical time of year,” he said.

Lynskey believes that the change in the Sterling exchange rate this week from 86p=€1 to 84p=€1 is significant. At the last reported price for hoggets in the UK of £4.17/kg, this equates to a price of €5.23/kg including VAT, he said.

It is clear at this price level that there is little basis in the argument that UK lamb is undercutting Irish lamb in France.

He added that hoggets were making from €5.10/kg to €5.20/kg up to 23kg; prices of €6.20/kg were on offer for spring lambs, while ewes are making up to €3.00/kg.