26 February 1999

MLC claims lamb credit

FARM-gate lamb prices rose by 20% in the first two weeks of Feb-ruary and the Meat and Livestock Commission is claiming all the credit for its £1m advertising promotion.

"The campaign began on Feb 1 and, in the first two weeks, it has given sheep farmers an extra £2.5m with £0.5m of that in Scotland. I can think of no reason other than the promotion for prices to rise," said David Croston, head of MLC sheep strategy.

But at a conference in Perth on Monday, he was challenged by auctioneer Willie Blair and Europes biggest sheep farmer, John Cameron, both claiming that MLC supply forecasts for Scotland had been wrong and that it was reduced supplies that were pushing up prices.

"I accept that may be the case in Scotland, but it most certainly is not in England and, more particularly, Wales," said Mr Croston. He insisted that the estimate of 9.5m lambs to be marketed in the first quarter was accurate and that it was up by 1m on last year.

Farmer Fergus Wood said more and more producers were going into the retail business. "A market price of £15 for a Blackface export lamb is no use and more of us are having them butchered, packed, and labelled for about £15 and then retailing them locally for £50 a lamb," he said. &#42