Lamb prices above last year’s levels despite seasonal falls

Tighter supplies of lamb in recent weeks and better demand on the Continent have helped to offer some short-term support to prices during August.

Auctioneers say heavier lambs and well finished export grade animals are still in good demand, while AHDB livestock analyst Isabelle Shohet said that average finished lamb prices have held above those recorded in 2022 in recent weeks.

See also: Meat processors still struggling with staff shortages

Prices were up on the week by 3.3p/kg for finished lambs at GB auction markets on 23 August, with an average of 256.9p/kg liveweight.

At Cirencester livestock market, prime lambs averaged 263p/kg liveweight overall on 24 August, with 42kg to 45kg lambs typically fetching between £114 and £118 a head.

The numbers

  • 256.9p/kg GB liveweight lamb SQQ on 28 August
  • 669p/kg Average price for U grade wholesale UK lamb carcasses at Rungis w/e 28 August
  • 38p/kg Increase in finished deadweight lamb price on the same week last year

Auctioneer Chris Voyce said the bank holiday and reduced numbers nationally forced the trade up, and prices increased as the week progressed.

Finished deadweight lambs are up by about 38p/kg on the same week last year, while throughputs remain slightly tighter at present.

Jonny Williams, joint operations director of livestock marketing group Farmstock, said there is a large variation, with prices ranging from 485p/kg to 550p/kg deadweight for high-end retailer specifications.

Mr Williams said: “There are reasons to be positive. Prices in France and Ireland look good, and news is the numbers in the South of England are lower than normal.

“This year a lot of singles may have grown and fattened quicker after the poorer scans many flocks reported.”

Consumer demand

Data from market analysts Kantar show volumes of GB household lamb purchases were down by 4.2% on the year during the 12 weeks ending 6 August.

Poorer weather and cost of living concerns have been two of the major drivers, with notable reductions for both burgers and roasting joints.

However, total spending on lamb was marginally higher, with the average price up by 4.6% to £10.52/kg at retail.

Export trade is helping to support domestic markets and UK wholesale lamb carcasses averaged €7.80/kg (£6.69/kg) for U grades at Rungis International Market in Paris for the week ending 28 August.

Market outlook

Strong grass growth could encourage more lambs to come forward earlier than last year.

 AHDB livestock analyst Isabelle Shohet said: “This may have implications for price, especially if domestic demand continues to be difficult.

“So far this year, trends in imports and exports have helped support domestic prices. We expect positive trade dynamics to continue through the second half of the year, offering support to domestic prices.”

HMRC data showed that UK sheep meat export volumes were up by 16% during the first six months of the year and 94% of these exports headed to the EU

Glesni Phillips, data analyst at Hybu Cig Cymru (Meat Promotion Wales), said: “This occurred despite lamb production on the UK market being less than 1% higher than year-earlier levels, and as supply in the UK is usually highest during the latter half of the year, we would expect this strong trade to continue.”