‘Sheep factories in a race to the bottom’ – Spring lamb quotes fall 20c/kg

Spring lamb prices have taken another knock this week, with most factories now operating off a base price of 450c/kg for new season lambs.

Factory quotes have dropped considerably in the space of a fortnight, with base quotes for spring lambs falling 40c/kg in a two week time frame.

On a 21kg lamb carcass, this is a price drop of €8.40.

Procurement managers have blamed a quite sheep meat trade in both France and the UK as the main reasons for the fall in spring lamb quotes.

Base spring lamb price:
  • ICM Camolin: 450c/kg
  • ICM Navan: 450c/kg
  • Kildare Chilling: 450c/kg
  • Kepak Athleague: 450c/kg

One procurement manager told Agriland that the French trade remains difficult due to the holiday season, which has seen demand for sheepmeat decline.

Another spring lamb buyer said that it is very difficult to market Irish lamb at the minute due to a quite markets in both France and the UK and lower fifth quarter product prices.

Disappointment with factory cuts

Sheep factories have finally succeeded in quoting as low as 440c/kg for spring lambs over the holiday weekend, according to the ICSA Sheep Committee Chairman John Brooks.

Brooks said that sheep factories are in a race to the bottom, without any regards for sheep farmers livelihoods.

However, despite the lower factory quotes, Brooks said that processors are paying 470-480c/kg to secure supplies.

“ICSA believe the sheepmeat plants have ran out of luck because in their passion and hast to continually pull quotes they did not seem to realise that sheep farmers with lambs to sell are well up for the processors greed,” he said.

Brooks added that farmers are well aware of the returns available for store and ewe lambs and they are also aware of the demand from the live shipping trade.

“It would not be uncommon for a 40kg lamb to return €88 live, this compares to on average the same lamb having a carcass of 17kg at 440c/kg returning  €74.80, which is a difference of €13.20/lamb,” he said.

Spring lamb numbers fall

There was a fall in the number of spring lambs slaughtered in Department of Agriculture approved sheepmeat export plants during the week ending July 24.

According to figures from the Department of Agriculture, spring lamb throughput declined by 0.9% or 432 head compared to the week earlier.

It also shows that the number of hoggets slaughtered declined by 72% or 349 head compared to the week earlier, as tail end of 2015-born lambs enter the market.

However, despite the decline in spring lamb and hoggets, the number of cast ewe and ram slaughterings actually increased.

Official figures show a 6.2% jump in ewe and ram slaughterings during the week ending July 24, bringing the total for the week to just over 8,000 head.

Week-on-week sheep kill changes:
  • Hoggets: -349 head (-72%)
  • Spring lambs: -432 head (-0.9%)
  • Ewes and rams: +469 head (+6.2%)
  • Total: -358 head (-0.6%)

Cumulative sheep supplies

According to figures from the Department of Agriculture an extra 45,982 sheep (+3%) have been slaughtered in approved sheepmeat export plants so far this year.

Official figures show that an extra 42,314 hoggets and 34,459 ewes and rams have been slaughtered so far this year compared to the same time in 2015.

However, the number of spring lambs slaughtered so far this year is considerably lower than 2015, with the cumulative spring lamb kill back by 30,437 head or 6%.

Year-on-year sheep kill changes:
  • Hoggets: +42,314 head (+7%)
  • Spring lambs: -30,437 head (-6%)
  • Ewes and rams: +34,459 head (+24%)
  • Total: +45,982 head (+3%)

Main Markets

According to Bord Bia, the upward momentum in the British sheep trade has continued due to tighter supplies and weaker Sterling, which is making exports more competitive.

The SQQ live price for lamb in England and Wales made the equivalent of around 494c/kg last week, it shows.

In France, Bord Bia says the sheepmeat trade has slowed due to an ease in demand caused by the holiday season.

Last week, retail promotions focused mainly on imported and domestic product such as legs and chops, while Grade 1 lamb made around 557c/kg in Rungis (the French sheepmeat market), it shows.

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