Strong prime lamb trade leading to Easter period
NOW THAT Easter weekend is past, prime hogg prices have cooled – but still remain 30 per cent higher than last year.
‘Auction market through-puts through March have been well above last year’s levels, while the UK weekly slaughter of prime sheep has been running well ahead of last year in January and February,’ said Stuart Ashworth, Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) director of economics services.
‘So despite strong supplies of hoggs, farm gate prices have strengthened suggesting a basic strength in demand,’ he added.
‘All of that growth in sales is put down to purchases of leg roasting joints, which can leave processors with a major challenge to sell the remaining cuts from a lamb carcase when demand for leg roasts is so high,’ said Mr Ashworth.
Imports of New Zealand lamb usually peak at this time of year, but dry weather there has seen early slaughter of their lamb crop.
‘Slaughter statistics from New Zealand suggest that between October and the end of January they killed 10 per cent more lambs than last year, though their January kill struggled to match year earlier levels,’ said Mr Ashworth.
‘Not surprisingly, New Zealand saw some growth in exports over this period, but the latest data suggests the volumes exported in February failed to match last year,’ he added.
Mr Ashworth was keen to stress the growth in exports from New Zealand was not to the UK, where the volume shipped between October and February was little changed, but to China and EU countries including Germany and France.
France reported lower slaughter volumes throughout the autumn and into 2018 which led to increased imports, initially from Ireland and New Zealand, but as 2017 drew to a close the UK also increased deliveries. The UK also saw growth in exports to Germany and Belgium.
‘Once again we see the importance of European Union customers to the market for Scotch and UK lamb,’ said Mr Ashworth.
‘In addition to this, the high farm gate prices in Scotland and the UK has clearly drawn hoggs onto the market, which may mean supplies become tighter through April and May and the likelihood that though cooling, farm gate prices will remain firm,’ he concluded.