Auctioneers claim markets essential to lamb trade

Rapidly rising liveweight lamb prices dispel the suggestion from the Carlisle Discussion Group that sheep farmers could benefit from markets acting as collection centres rather than auctions, according to Chris Dodds of the Livestock Auctioneers Association.

Mr Dodds, the LAA‘s executive secretary said 965 farmers chose to sell lambs through north of England auctions last week and as a result received far better returns than they would have by trading deadweight. “The market price has risen by 20-40p/kg, increases not reflected in abattoirs’ deadweight prices. Last week best quality lambs sold to 153.9p/kg liveweight, equating to about 320p/kg deadweight. This is nearly 100p/kg more than the weekly price offered by most abattoirs, clearly demonstrating the benefits of a competitive marketing system.”

Other organisations have also rallied behind the auction sector, including NSA, NFU, EBLEX and AIMS. EBLEX chairman John Cross says auction markets are the preferred marketing route for many farmers and provide an important service to the industry.

Export markets

The return of export buyers to markets following the removal of all export restrictions has seen clear price increases and this is down to the competitive bidding mechanism of the live auction system, explained Mr Dodds. “However, the Carlisle Discussion Group appears to want to see the open, transparent and competitive benefits of the auction system removed altogeher.”

In voicing his support for live sales of prime lambs NSA chief executive Peter Morris said it was vital for sheep farmers to have a choice of methods to sell their stock. “This is vital to inject competition into the marketplace. As an organisation NSA works closely with the LAA and part of this ongoing dialogue is the ongoing search for means of improving returns to sheep farmers. This is of benefit to everyone in the industry.”

But a spokesman for the Carlisle Discussion Group said the end of the current SFP regime in four years time meant sheep farmers were having to radically re-think their sheep enterprises and that including marketing.

The spokesman said no other industry would commit its resources to producing something without having a clear idea of what they would be paid for it. “Sheep farmers cannot go on tupping ewes in the autumn without any guarantee of the price they will receive for their lambs the following year. The economics of sheep production no longer allow farmers to continue acting in hope not certainty.

“What we want to see it is auctioneers acting differently to ensure sheep farmers can trade confidently. This is all about gaining forward pricing agreements and ensuring farmers don’t have to rely on subsidies to top up their businesses.”