French lamb in short supply – But what does it mean for Ireland?

French lamb numbers have tightened considerably due to a considerable uplift in price, the AHDB (the English organisation for beef and lamb) report.

This was given added impetus at the beginning of September by the Muslim festival of EID, which also had a positive impact on Irish lamb prices.

However, worryingly for Irish sheep producers, the AHDB also reports that French import demand has increased, with sheepmeat from the UK becoming more in demand.

It also says that French lamb prices have increased by as much as 15% since June and stood 5% higher than the year earlier levels as of the week ending September 25.

With prices reaching €6.54/kg, just over €2/kg higher than the current prices being paid for Irish lamb. However, it notes that this price is well above the five-year average.

What does it mean for Irish sheep producers?

A fall off in French supply, in theory, is a good thing for Irish sheep producers, but given the reduced demand for lamb from French consumers and a weaker Sterling, it is unlikely to have a major impact on Irish lamb prices.

Over the past week, Sterling has edged closer to parity and according to the AHDB, this puts UK sheepmeat suppliers at an advantage when selling into the French market.

A weaker Sterling essentially means that UK suppliers are able to sell sheepmeat onto the French market at a lower price than suppliers in Ireland, while also being able to maintain a margin.

The move towards a weaker Sterling is likely to increase the competition faced by Irish processors when selling lamb into the French market.

And this potentially could be a source of worry, as the French sheepmeat market was the main buyer of Irish sheepmeat in 2015, outperforming only the UK.

Furthermore, the AHDB also reports that French consumers are still focusing on purchasing domestically produced sheepmeat and where willing to pay as much as €7.20/kg for lamb in the Rungis lamb market during the week ending September 25.

This is another worrying trend, which suggests that French consumers would rather pay much higher prices for domestically produced product rather than purchase lamb from either the UK or Ireland.