Sheep farmers gain EU market share as NZ supply shrinks

The seasonal decline in fat lamb prices is being moderated by increased exports to the EU, as rival supplies from the southern hemisphere fall away.

Exports of UK sheep meat to Europe in May were up by almost a third on the five-year average, the AHDB has reported and trends suggest demand will continue to improve.

According to HMRC data, exports totalled 7,600 tonnes during the month with the largest volume at 2,700t going to France.

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However, the biggest increase in trade was with Germany, which doubled shipments to 2,000t, said AHDB analyst Rebecca Oborne.

The increase in exports was likely to reflect a global market with low lamb availability, while prices in both NZ and Australia continued to be high, Ms Oborne suggested.

“New Zealand is historically the largest supplier to Germany but NZ shipments have been down in volume this year,” she said.

Price update

Lamb prices have dropped back this week, in line with the five-year average as supplies swell towards the seasonal early-autumn peak.

In the week ended 17 July the GB liveweight new season (NSL) SQQ fell 6.8p to 182.7p/kg, on par with the five-year average for the time of year, according to AHDB data.

The deadweight price also fell with a drop of 18.6p to 414.9p/kg in the seven days up to 13 July. 

Jonny Williams, joint operations manager at livestock marketing co-operative Farmstock, said that domestic demand was also likely to grow in the next 10 days as processors stocked up ahead of the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha, which takes place in early August.

He said lamb supplies are two to three weeks ahead of last year as finishing times have improved with better forage availability, but prices are the same compared to the same week last year.

HMRC data shows that during the first five months of 2019, New Zealand shipments to the EU-28 were down over 12,000t year-on-year.

Falling imports

Growing global demand and falling production has meant there is less available for the EU market. which has then influenced UK exports and imports, Ms Oborne said.

While UK exports have been on the rise, imports have continued to decline, following the long-term trend.

Total imports are down 26% on the five-year average, to just 6,200t. There were some small rises in shipments from other EU nations, but these were not enough to offset the lack of New Zealand product

Shipments from New Zealand are down well over a third, reflecting the diminishing price competitiveness of NZ product in the EU currently and the declining availability of product.