24 May 2002

Higher demand raises lamb values

NEW season lamb trade has settled at the 280p-285/kg mark as the countrys supply of hoggets begins to dwindle, with premium quality lambs reaching 300p/kg.

Firmer retail demand and tight numbers forward have helped push the price upwards. All the big four supermarkets are now stocking spring lamb, although chilled New Zealand product is still competing.

Sainsbury expects to fill its shelves with only British spring lamb once it has used up the remainder of its Kiwi supplies, which will be put on a two-week promotion starting on June 5. ASDA says it has already made the switch to 100% British product.

Last weeks average deadweight new season lamb price firmed to 285.6p/kg, up from 278.1p the week before.

Numbers have bounced as well. The Meat and Livestock Commissions deadweight average price for the week ending May 11 took account of 9545 lambs, while the most recent provisional figure rose to 10,600 lambs.

Juliet Davies, head lamb buyer at HM Bennett, says the trade is not sure how new season supplies are stacking up. "We are weighing up how many spring lambs there are. We will know soon if there are enough lambs for the trade."

Peter Crichton, of lamb marketing group Hill Farm Sheep, says that the market looks "bullish" for the next couple of weeks.

"The price has lifted recently, but the numbers are not as high as two years ago, which has put a bottom in the trade, and there are some good lambs coming forward. The best lambs are making 300p/kg, with average lambs at 280p-290/kg.

"It is a numbers game. The tighter supply, partly from foot-and-mouth, is keeping prices where they are." &#42