Lamb prices in the UK have almost doubled from the start of the year as the strength of the euro has increased demand for British lamb on the continent, industry experts say.
The average price for old season lambs reached 148p/kg this week, a rise of 10p/kg on the week, while in Scotland hoggets reached 155/kg.
Richard Phelps, managing director of processor Southern Counties, said the increase had been driven by a weakening of the pound against the euro and strong demand in Europe.
“There have also been some good promotions in the supermarkets over Easter which has increased sales in the UK,” he added.
“It’s good to see a lift in price and more volume through processing plants.”
Auctioneer Michael Powell of Exeter auction mart said prices had finally risen to an “acceptable level”.
Average prices at auction on Monday (31 March) reached 134p/kg liveweight, while cull ewes averaged £50/head for the third week running.
“With the increase in input costs, prices need to be at this level, and possible even higher,” auctioneer Michael Powell said.
“The sheep trade is strong but there will be less and less lambs, as even though lambing is good this year, people are reducing flocks. With higher ewe cull prices, people are selling ewes rather than running on for breeding.
Brian Pile of Thrapston auction mart said hogget prices had almost doubled since December, largely because bluetongue restrictions meant the mart’s supply of hoggets had “dried up”.
“It has been very frustrating for farmers. A lot of people lost their patience with the sheep trade at Christmas and sold a lot of their flock at about £40/head,” he said. “We are now seeing hogs nearly double that – we reached £77/head last week.”
New season prices were also expected to remain strong, he added.
“Hoggets will run out fairly soon and there aren’t many new season lambs because last year was such a poor trade and people sold their breeding ewes.”