Lamb price holds firm for start to new year markets

Finished lamb prices are holding steady with the SQQ well above 200p/kg liveweight.

The week ending 1 January saw an SQQ average of 208p/kg, down a little on the previous week but still up on the same week of last year.

Cull ewe prices were also strong, averaging £77.47 a head.

During the previous week (ending 25 December), the SQQ price rose almost 16p to finish at 212p/kg.

Lamb prices got some support from the EU withdrawal agreement being passed, continuing the current EU trading relationship until 31 December 2020.

See also: Small abattoirs – how farmers are fighting for their future

With numbers down by more than 50% compared with the previous week, the SQQ deadweight price in the week to 28 December rose 8.2p/kg to average 438p/kg for 26,132 head.

Finished lamb numbers are likely to be tight during January, reflecting the wet conditions so far this winter, said AHDB Beef and Lamb.

In Derbyshire, Bakewell’s first market of the new year saw 647 lambs average 208.91p/kg, about 5p/kg up on the previous week which had also seen strong demand for more than double the number of lambs offered.

All shapes and sizes were in strong demand, said the auctioneers, with a top price of £120 a head and 254p/kg, and the top eight pens all making more than £110 a head.

The 80 culls averaged £64.35 a head, and strong trade throughout led to a top price of £128 a head.

Lamb market outlook 2020 – key points

  • 5% fall in UK sheep meat production expected in 2020 – smaller breeding flock, lamb rearing rate expected to fall back to five-year average after an upturn in 2019. Also, slaughter of 2019 lamb crop being brought forward contributing to the decline.
  • Imports expected to fall further 6%, even after a significant decline this year – Chinese demand will continue to draw New Zealand product away from Europe. This will influence UK imports and exports.
  • Export volumes expected to follow production, although scope to increase if global market remains tight, underpinned by China. Exports are typically about a third of domestic production but have scope to be higher in 2020 than in 2019. Domestic demand will be key, and a further annual decline will allow higher exports.
  • Lamb consumption – competitive landscape for red meat, challenged by chicken and pork prices, with lamb retail sales down 0.6% year-on-year (Kantar 52 weeks to 6 October 2019), following a 7.9% fall in 2018. Modest decline in primary red meat consumption expected to continue in short term.

Source: AHDB Beef and Lamb

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