Strong lamb trade boosted by Christmas demand

Deadweight lamb prices rose for a ninth consecutive time last week, keeping them above £6/kg deadweight.

The GB SQQ for the week ending 27 November averaged 600.6p/kg, an increase of 0.5p/kg on the previous week. This puts deadweight lamb prices 126.7p/kg above the same week last year, according to the AHDB.

Throughputs for the deadweight SQQ totalled 40,984 head, down 1,785 head (-4%) on the previous week and down 8,328 head (-17%) on the same week last year.

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Export demand

Stuart Vile, commercial manager for farmer-owned livestock marketing company Meadow Quality, said short-term lamb trade is being driven by export demand, with big orders coming in from Portugal at the moment.

“We are worried about European lockdowns that could affect the restaurant trade. Into the new year, the home market trade might not be very strong and will be reliant on the export trade and what supplies of lambs are available,” said Mr Vile.

Liveweight lambs have also been seeing a strong trade recently, with finished lambs averaging more than £130 a head in some UK regions.

The GB liveweight SQQ averaged 275.9p/kg for the week ending 30 November, an increase of 7.8p/kg on the previous week, according to AHDB figures.

Ludlow Market in Shropshire saw prime lambs average 290p/kg on Monday 29 November, with top prices reaching 340p/kg. Trade was reported to be strong, with buyers very keen to secure numbers and extra lambs needed in the run-up to Christmas.

Christmas demand

Demand for lamb increased for Christmas 2020, with sales of lamb roasting joints rising by 2% year-on-year to 4,600t, according to Kantar data.

Lamb demand for Christmas 2021 is more unpredictable, with some consumers likely to replace red meat with turkey.

AHDB senior retail insight manager Kim Malley said: “Bigger joints will, undoubtedly, be in demand this year. But there has been a longer-term trend towards smaller joints, even before Covid-19.”

With Christmas primestock shows and sales in full swing, this may be encouraging higher-quality stock to come forward.

Demand often drops back marginally once Christmas orders are fulfilled, based on previous years, but tight supply should help to maintain high prices in the new year.

European farmgate lamb prices are also high at present, especially in France – a key export market for UK lamb. This should offer opportunities for increased UK lamb exports into the new year, although exchange rates will also play a part.