Ulster Farmers’ Union Beef and Lamb Policy Chairman Robert Davidson is extremely concerned that lamb prices have dropped so significantly in such a short period of time, with factory quotes falling back from 440p/kg to below 400p/kg in Northern Ireland.

Robert Davidson said; “Sheep Farmers are concerned and disappointed that lamb prices have fallen so quickly in recent weeks. Producers are aware that the lamb trade normally comes under some pressure at this time of year when more lambs are coming forward, however it is alarming to see such a considerable drop in price within such a short period of time. The kill over the last few weeks has increased and is somewhat higher than this time last year, however there has been good demand from the European market for lamb where the price remains strong.

“Looking ahead, global supplies for lamb should remain tight over the next 12 months with imports into the EU down this year as New Zealand continues to direct more lamb towards growing demand from China. As a result we should see a good level of demand for our lamb in both our own domestic market and our export markets in mainland Europe, therefore there should be no excuses from processors as to why they cannot pay a reasonable price.”

Robert continued; “As producers begin to assess their breeding strategy for this year and while others consider whether to enter into the store lamb market or not, farmers need to see a stable and secure price being offered. We do not want to see a similar trend to the beef sector where cow numbers have dropped considerably in the past 18months. CAP reform discussions have placed a strong emphasis on encouraging young farmers into the sector, but unless processors deliver a fair return, the reality is there will not be a great deal of incentive for young farmers to pursue a career in primary production.”

Many producers have experienced a good lambing and growing season to date and the UFU would encourage farmers to slaughter lambs when they are ready, to avoid allowing them to go above the stated weight threshold of 18-21kgs and to prevent gift kilos finding their way onto the market.