Short supply of lamb pushed up 2010 prices

The average week-on-week price for Welsh lamb in 2010 was 10% higher than in the previous year, thanks to tight supply and a strong export market.

According to Wales’ levy-funded red meat development body, Hybu Cig Cymru, the number of lambs slaughtered in the UK dropped by nearly one million to 12.2m in 2010.

In Wales, the number of sheep slaughtered fell from 3.7m in 2009 to just over 3.5m. This caused the volume of sheepmeat produced in Wales to fall by more than 2000t.

John Richards, HCC’s industry information officer, said a contributory factor for the decrease in lambs being processed was a reduction in the national flock. “Despite an increase of 1% in sheep numbers at the end of 2010, the overall trend for the past decade has been down,” he said.

“The number of breeding ewes in Wales now stands at 4.1m, but this was after a reduction of 5% in the previous year and followed a 7% cut between 2007 and 2008.

“The positive news is that improved farm gate prices for lamb in 2010 has led to renewed optimism within the industry and increased lamb retention, which accounts for the increased sheep numbers in 2010.”

Exports of lamb from the UK remained high, with almost 80,000 tonnes of sheepmeat being exported between January and November 2010. France remained the UK’s biggest customer.

In 2010, 12,217,000 sheep were processed in the UK, down from 13,213,700 the previous year. In Wales, the total number was 3,574,100, while in 2009 it was 3,710,600.