Lamb demand to reach its pinnacle in the coming weeks

Demand for Irish lamb is set to reach its pinnacle in the coming weeks as the Muslim festival of Eid-al-Adha approaches. This year’s festival is expected to kick off on August 31 and is set to run until September 4.

Given the large demand for lamb and sheepmeat from Muslim communities across the globe, Irish processors are set for a busy period in the lead up to the festival.

Supplies are expected to jump by 5,000-15,000 head compared to a normal week’s kill for the July-to-December period.

Last year, in the week before Eid-al-Adha, some 70,000 sheep were slaughtered in Irish plants; that was the fourth consecutive year when supplies peaked in advance of the Muslim religious festival.

Speaking at a recent sheep information evening, organised by Teagasc and the Belclare Sheep Society, Irish Country Meats’ John Walsh discussed the current state of the sheep market in Ireland.

The Irish Country Meats General Manager touched on some of the markets that are growing in terms of Irish sheepmeat exports.

“Over the next 10-14 days, I think the price will remain pretty strong and we would expect a very strong trade up to Eid-al-Adha,” he said last Friday.

Once Eid is out of the way, we are moving into the very difficult month of September; so, it’s hard to know what’s going to happen from September 10 onwards.

“But, you would hope that the market would remain as strong as last year,” he told the crowd of over 140 in attendance.

Walsh also said that the spring lamb price has remained pretty strong this year and a gap of 40-50c/kg has been maintained on 2016 price levels.

The sterling/euro difference, he said, also has a substantial impact when UK processors present the same lambs to the same markets as Irish suppliers.

In addition, he said, consumption is back by 8% in the French market this year on last year and last year it was 6% back on 2015 levels.

That has driven companies like ourselves to look at different markets. Germany is a growing market; France is stable enough, but the UK is focusing on that market.

“Scandinavia, Belgium, Holland and, to a certain extent, Switzerland are all growing markets for us.”

The ICM representative also said: “The American market is one that we are pushing the government very strongly on and we felt that lamb should have went in with beef.

“Bord Bia’s research would tell you that there’s a better opportunity for Irish lamb in America,” he said.