23 August 2002

Exports of lightweight lambs late

By Robert DaviesWales correspondent

EXPORTS of lightweight lamb to southern Europe will be later than usual and the volume of trade is likely to be smaller than two years ago.

Jane Connor, sheep economist at the Meat and Livestock Commission, says there has been no increase in demand for the small number of light lambs reaching the market and does not expect to see exports take off for at least another month.

"Last week light lambs were selling for 101p/kg liveweight, 9p/kg less than standard quality lambs. There is some demand from Italy, but none from Spain, where home production has been increased, or from other Mediterranean countries."

Mrs Connor adds that later tupping in many hill flocks and ewe losses linked to last years foot-and-mouth crisis mean that few small lambs are currently available.

Terry Bayliss, chairman of the Farmers First Group, expects domestic and export trading to be influenced by a shortage of lambs, especially from February. He anticipates that hill flockmasters could be tempted to try and finish some lambs that normally go to southern Europe.

"We expect to restart live exports by the end of the month. There is strong demand from Italy," he says. "But with far fewer ewes tupped, the best prices could be on the home market.

"We believe prospects for sheep producers are pretty good for the rest of the season. Those who can take their hill lambs to 32kg liveweight without getting them too fat should get good prices."

Philip Morgan, chief executive of the procurement company Welsh Livestock Marketing, is confident there are more lambs on the ground than some statisticians suggest.

"Numbers have been down in the early part of the marketing season, but that was because people were trying to finish the fodder harvest and shearing. Lambs will start to come through in the next few weeks and I anticipate that prices will stay firm right through." &#42