8 October 1999

Lamb exports stay in touch

EXPORT demand for light lambs is running at 9000 head a week over last year despite a seasonal dip in trade.

Numbers, which rose to 190,000 for August, fell back to 175,000 for September reflecting minor changes in Continental consumers finances and a switch to game with the opening of the hunting season across the Channel, reports Farmers Ferrys David Owen.

But rather than hit lamb markets nation-wide, some auctioneers are seeing sustained bidding with competition between store and exports buyers. According to Carmarthen-based John Davies store lambs are trading up to 72p/kg whereas most export types in the 22-30kg weight range are taking bids at 58-64p/kg.

Those export lambs showing a bit more frame and potential to go that bit further are being taken for further finishing and returned to the fat ring. And trade could be pushed harder, he adds.

While many export lambs go direct, an increase in market throughput would influence the SQQ and lift all lamb prices. "It would certainly help," argues Mr Davies who sees roughly 25% of the weekly entry of 2000 lambs in the market go for Continental trade.

Others disagree. "It wont make a blind bit of difference," comments Stuart Ashworth, SACs sheep economist. Increasing export-types sold through marts could pull down the SQQ, although it will potentially increase the sheep annual premium payment paid to farmers.

MLC officials add changes to the SQQ will be affected by a swing in marketings. It reached 71.7p/kg (up almost 4p/kg) early this week after a 10% fall in numbers before the weekend as poor weather delayed finishing.

Optimists suggest lamb prices should firm towards the end of the year. This could be aided by indications that overseas buyers are looking to take heavier, retail weight sorts at 35kg liveweight. France and Germany are thought to be front-runners, remarks Mr Owen. &#42