By FW Staff

FEARS that the 1998 sheep annual premium would be cut by £2 a head have been allayed after talks in Brussels.

The problem stemmed from calculations by Brussels officials in August to fix the second advance payment. They forecast a rising market for the rest of the year and cut the total payment forecast to £16.60 a head, said Scottish NFU vice-president Jim Walker.

But latest estimates show prices down 30 percent in Britain and Ireland and 20 percent down in Spain. That, plus the slight weakening of sterling, will mean a total payment of at least £18.16 when the final calculation is done in January, he believed.

Home market prices remain a worry. “More than 1100 tonnes of sheepmeat have been offered in the first week of the private storage aid scheme which is close to half the total allocated for the four week period. But that lamb has gone off the market without the slightest sign of a price rise.”

Large numbers of unsold lambs and poor skin prices mean the whole market is very fragile, he said.