Cold snap adds further boost to ‘unbelievable’ lamb prices

British lamb prices continue to climb, with marketing specialists suggesting the recent cold snap has further limited supplies and given added impetus to rising values.

AHDB figures show liveweight old season standard quality quotation (OSL SQQ) increased by more than 8p/kg in the week ending 17 February, to average 279.74p/kg.

Rises for deadweight averages were even steeper with OSL SQQ lambs up 13p/kg to 593.3p/kg for the week ending 13 February, the most recent deadweight report.  

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Prices continue to run well above the five-year average, and are 71p/kg higher when compared to the same week last year, according to AHDB senior analyst Duncan Wyatt.

“Despite reports of difficulties in exporting, demand for lambs here, and for carcasses on the continent, is reported to be strong against a tight supply-side picture,” Mr Wyatt said.

“Without an erosion in demand, prices could continue to receive support for some weeks.” 

Total throughputs for the week are estimated at 198,000 head, in line with the previous seven days, but 6% short of the same week in 2019.

In the year to date, nearly 8% fewer lambs have come forward, compared with the same point in 2020.

Farmer-owned livestock marketing business Meadow Quality reported new season lamb averages rose 15p/kg to 575p/kg deadweight over the seven days to their latest sale on 15 February.

Peak prices paid were 590p/kg – 10p/kg higher than the previous week.

Meadow Quality marketing specialist Gordon McWhirter described prices as “unbelievable, but showing no sign of dropping back”.

Top values for new season organic lamb hit the £6/kg mark, a 10p/kg uplift on the week.

Mr McWhirter said the underlying cause for the firm averages was a lack of supply on farms.

This was due to a smaller lamb crop last year and many sellers pushing stock forward for export ahead of the Brexit deadline on 1 January.

Covid-19 had also reduced capacity at abattoirs, with staff numbers down due to the virus itself or to measures to limit the spread of the disease.

Mr McWhirter reported some processors were operating for just three or four days a week due to Covid-19 difficulties.

However, he added, more recently cold weather had provided further support for prices by limiting stock coming forward and increasing demand.

“We are just six weeks from Easter and these levels are unbelievable.

“Normally we start to see New Zealand stocks putting pressure on prices, but the supplies are just not coming on to the market,” he added.

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