30 June 2000

Lamb increase sees price fall

FALLS in the lamb price have been spurred on by a sizeable increase in the numbers sold over the past fortnight and the prolonged impact of imported product. Lamb numbers will continue to rise maintaining pressure on markets, but at least exchange rate adjustments and the end of imported lamb campaigns may help 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, suggest MAFFs 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, he adds.

"There is still a lack of demand from France. With currency changes we are matching Irish lamb prices to within 1F/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. Volumes brought in to the EU were up again this year, drawing criticism from observers.

Meat NZs UK manager John Mabb says the increase is less than 10% and has been spread across the main markets – the UK, Germany and France. "It amounts to a rise of about 2000t and is an easy target to criticise. But its a drop in the ocean in a meat market handling 1.4mt annually."