By FWi staff

A FALL in lamb prices has been spurred on by a sizeable increase in the numbers sold over the past fortnight.

Lamb numbers will continue to rise, maintaining pressure on markets. But at least exchange rate changes and the end of imported lamb campaigns may steady the decline in prices.

Trading has started each week strongly, but the erosion of values has been marked.

This Mondays trade was down by 6p/kg on the previous week with an additional 46,000 sheep being marketed, many of which would be lambs, suggests MAFF slaughter statistics.

“Demand has been shifting,” says Worcester-based Richard Norris of McCartneys. “Buyers have been coming at us with bids early on with the smartest continentals over 1/kg.

“But the weight makes all the difference. Values are better than a year ago, but producers must keep drawing stock and not allow lambs to get fat.”

Deadweight prices are following changes in the SQQ closely. That is leading some abattoirs to assess weekly bid prices mid-week.

“We have stopped quoting for the moment and are reviewing the situation as the week progresses,” says Lloyd Maunders John Kearns.

The latest deadweight offer was a maximum 215p/kg for E and U grade carcasses weighing 18kg and hitting fat class 2 or 3L. “I expect prices to continue easing back,” he says.

Meat markets are adding to the pressure on prices. Many are awash with ample supplies of protein; lamb is only one commodity among many to see prices ease, adds Mr Kearns.

“There is still a lack of demand from France. With currency changes we are matching Irish lamb prices to within FF1/kg; the French will opt for British when it is that close. UK trade is also slow.”

Major retailers have almost finished the New Zealand chilled lamb campaign and few packers will be handling any remaining tonnage being shipped in.

Volumes brought in to the EU were up again this year, drawing criticism from observers.

According to Meat NZs UK manager John Mabb the increase is up by less than 10% and has been spread across the main markets – the UK, Germany and France.

“It amounts to about 2000t and is an easy target to criticise. But its a drop in the ocean in a meat market handling 1.4 million tonnes annually.”