Consumer demand for lamb has crashed this year, with high retail prices deterring recession-weary purchasers.
In the nine months to September, GB consumers purchased 64,400t of lamb – 10% down on the same period in 2008 – while retail prices were almost 60p/kg higher.
The downturn has been of particular concern in Northern Ireland. “GB is one of the largest markets for NI lamb and it has been a concern for producers and processors that demand was poor in the first half of 2009,” says the Livestock and Meat Commission.
But since mid-July demand from GB processors has picked up, increasing by 20% between June and September, to over 6700t. “This rising demand has been driven at least in part by falling retail lamb prices,” says the LMC.
“In the four weeks ended 6 September, retail lamb prices were 6% lower than at the end of June. With prices falling and sales volume rising, consumer expenditure on lamb is up by 15%.
“While declining volume sales certainly raise worries that consumers are taking lamb off the shopping list, these concerns may be assuaged by the fact that lamb expenditure is only down marginally compared to 2008, and up on 2007 levels.”