3 May 1996

No dive for April-ending lamb prices

By Peter Grimshaw

AS APRIL ends, so the lamb trade traditionally topples from its spring peak. Not so this season, as auctioneers across the country report firmer prices.

Meat and Livestock Commission figures confirm this, with Mondays Standard Quality Quotation (SQQ) up over 8p on the week to nearly 190p/kg.

The unusual buoyancy is due to the beef substitution effect, combined with a cold spring that has held back grass growth.

"Lambs arent about in number," says Bridgnorth, Shropshire auctioneer Robin Nettleton. "The trade is generally about a fortnight behind."

He sold to average 191p/kg lw this week, an increase of 11p/kg on the previous week. Some were selling for more than £2.

Further north, grass is beginning to show, but lambs have been slow coming forward, probably because there is a general tendency to later lambing, says Andrew Wright at Carlisle, Cumbria.

"They are not yet the best of quality, perhaps because people are pushing them out as quickly as they can, to catch the high prices," he commented. Prices firmed by a further 15p/kg this week, to average 197p/kg.

At Banbury, Oxon, Brian Pile reckoned that a relatively strong French enquiry for carcasses to replace a decline in veal consumption was a factor.

Offerings of hoggs had nearly finished, and buyers were waiting for the expected explosion in new seasons lambs. With prices nudging £2/kg, lambs that were available wanted selling, he said.

More SWgrass

There is more grass in the south-west. Numbers forward have been well up for the time of year at Gloucester, with 2500 expected to go under the hammer this week. Even so, Mondays sale averaged 194p/kg.

"It will go less, of course, but I dont think it will collapse," commented Gavin Loynes.

He said farmers had been encouraged by high prices to unload lambs at lighter than usual weights, and this, combined with fewer lambs born, would keep trade firm. Export demand was also picking up.

At Exeter this week, standard lambs averaged 1.84p/kg, an increase of 10p on the previous week.