23 May 1997

Lamb recovery was short lived

LAMB prices, having recovered, headed down again this week.

Monday markets showed a fall of 17p/kg taking the average to 129p/kg.

John Kearns of West Country abattoir Lloyd Maunder says the trade drop came as buying resistance built up to the recent prices. "The strength of sterling is certainly not helping. Irish lamb is very competitive in French, German and Belgian markets.

"French product is also available at very competitive rates," he adds.

While some retail outlets have finished selling New Zealand lamb, most will not be clear until the second week of June, says Mr Kearns.

Lloyd Maunders target weight remains nearer 18kg dw than 22kg dw. And now there are more lambs about, buyers can afford to be more selective.

Simon Draper, who sells at Rugby, Warwicks, says increasing supplies also contributed to the fall in trade. He saw 1500 entered on Monday, almost twice the previous weeks number. And that will carry on increasing from now on.

"Some were too big and should have been drawn two weeks earlier," says Mr Draper.

Presenting lambs at the right weight and condition remains vital, says auctioneer Robin Nettleton at Bridgnorth, Shropshire. Farmers have to "hit bulls-eye", he says, which means a lamb with a lot of lean flesh, at between 36kg and 39kg.

According to Alan Venner at Exeter, Devon, trade is usually falling at this time of year. "By the time of the Devon County Show, which was last week, we expect to see a flush of lambs on the market."

And while the price trend now will be downward, it is possible – if values drop too much too quickly – that demand will rise and some firming will be seen.