Sheep producers are likely to feel the hangover of 2012 in January as late-finished lambs and tough competition from New Zealand imports hits prices.

“There is a distinct danger of our current situation having an impact on next year,” said Hybu Cig Cymru industry development manager Sion Aron Jones.

As more lambs, which would normally have already been gone from the farm, were sent to market, producers needed to ensure they were selling at the market specification grades and communicating with their buyers, he said.

Quality Meat Scotland head of economics Stuart Ashworth said in the two weeks running up to Christmas, up to 15% more lambs were sent through Scottish markets than the same period in 2011.

The three key factors affecting prices were quality, a bigger volume of lambs going through the market and consumer demand not keeping up with supply.

“The market is not awash with lambs but compared to August and September we have a bigger volume kicking about. We know from Defra’s slaughter stats that from June until the end of November, 550,000 fewer lambs were slaughtered than in 2011,” he said.

“Without a doubt, there is going to be a hangover of 2012 in the new year. I certainly expect higher carryover of lambs in the first quarter and the trading conditions are not going to be easy.”

Another key issue, which could impact on producers in 2013, was poor ewe productivity following the wet weather in 2012 – this could result in a smaller 2013 lamb crop, he added.

EBLEX sector director Nick Allen said there had been a lot more NZ lamb imports in the last few months, possibly due to supermarket frustration over the sporadic home supply in autumn 2012.

Retailers were taking a higher proportion out of the lamb price and although retail prices were up about 10p/kg, farmgate prices had fallen by about 40p/kg, he said.

“It’s going to be a difficult spring, but that said, a positive is that consumers are buying more lamb.”

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