By FWi staff

THE 1.5-million lamb surplus predicted by the Meat and Livestock Commission when export markets closed has disappeared and many abattoirs now report a shortage.

Jane Connor, the MLCs senior economic analyst for the sheep sector, told the Welsh Sheep Strategy conference at Aberystwyth that she could only account for 1m of the predicted surplus lambs.

The missing 500,000 could be the result of some producers holding back lambs longer than normal, and domestic lamb consumption having risen by 8% in the 12 weeks to 11 November.

It was also possible that more than the estimated 200,000 lambs could have gone in the welfare disposal scheme.

Mrs Connor also acknowledged that extra female lambs had been retained for breeding.

On the best available figures she calculated that up to 5000t of lamb could be exported in the first quarter of 2002 before a shortage occurred.