6 October 1995

Lambs ease but trade is still firm

By Tim Relf

FINISHED lamb values, having risen strongly recently, have now dipped, leaving opinion split as to likely future price movements.

The Standard Quality Quotation (SQQ) on Monday (Oct 2) stood at 102.7p/kg, down 1.06p/kg on the week.

The upturn in lamb values began a few weeks earlier this year than in 1994, with values topping the 100p/kg-mark during September – a movement which the MLC called "exceptional".

During the middle of September, values stood at 12.5p/kg (14%) higher than the year-earlier level.

Lower marketings and the continued export demand have contributed to the firm prices. MLC figures at sample markets early last month show throughputs down about 2% on 1994, with long periods of rain suggested as a possible factor in slowing down finishing.

The current situation at Stamford and Oakham markets, according to auctioneer Paul Eke, is still one of short numbers and strong prices.

"We typically see about 1000 head a week at Oakham," he says. "Last Friday the entry was 600."

With supplies remaining tight, he believes the trade will remain firm. And he stresses two factors will be important in coming months: the level of consumer resistance to rising values, and the price at which New Zealand product is imported.

At Kendal, meanwhile, the recent easing of prices was attributed by Clifford Kendal to a slightly lower quality entry. Recent wet weather and frosts have been to blame, he says.

Prices at Kendal dipped 2.5p/kg on Monday to average 100.5p/kg. "But this time last year, they were running at 85.5p/kg," he says.

And at Skipton, standard-weight lambs averaged 103.2p/kg on Monday; mediums 103.4p/kg and heavies 101.3p/kg. There, auctioneer John Hanson points out that finished lamb values have to be strong to justify the prices paid on occasions for store lambs.

Of a similar opinion is Stephen Watkins at Ross-on-Wye, who says the margins may not be there for some who have been "over-enthusiastic" in buying stores.

With the root keep situation having improved, supplies of fat lambs are likely to increase, suggests Mr Watkins. "I cant see them going any dearer for the next few weeks," he says. &#42