Lamb prices improved again last week, with tight supplies boosting the R3L SQQ value to 402.1p/kg. That was 7.6p/kg higher on the week, but 12.3p/kg below the same time last year.

In the week ending 19 February, 23,700 head averaged 400p/kg deadweight for all grades – in the same week last year 22,390 head averaged 411p/kg.

However, liveweight trade is now tracking above 2010 levels for the first time this year, averaging 187.98p/kg in the week to 22 February – 8.4p/kg up over the previous fortnight.

“Some markets achieved significant premiums, with at least one achieving over 200p/kg,” says a report by AHDB Meat Services.

Consumers purchased 22% less lamb in the month to 23 January, compared with the same period last year, according to analyst Kantar Worldpanel. Although retail prices are 12% higher than a year ago, total expenditure has fallen by 13%, to £43m.

“Despite the fall in purchases the news for domestic producers is somewhat brighter, as sales of New Zealand lamb have fallen at a greater rate,” says the AHDB report. “The volume of NZ lamb purchased accounted for 53% of volume sales, compared with 62% in the corresponding period in 2010.”