Food scare fails to dent lamb prices
By Tim Relf
SHEEP farmers breathed a sigh of relief early this week, as the latest food scare failed to impact on already-low prices.
Prices at Monday markets edged down just 0.1p on the week to average 82.7p/kg, as buyers – uncertain of consumer reaction to stories of BSE in sheep – continued to bid.
"Not as bad as I thought," is Chesterfield farmer Ian Wildgooses verdict on Monday values at Newark mart, Notts. "I expected to see a lot going home or a bad trade." The news, he says, will inject yet more caution in to the store lamb trade.
According to auctioneer Paul Gentry at Newark, there was "no change at all" in the finished trade. Medium and heavy sorts averaged 90p and 92p/kg lw. "What has been a crunch factor has been the drop in skin values."
Perth auctioneer David Leggat says: "We were most relieved. Talk before the sale was that prices would be disastrous. But when good lambs came forward, the bids were there and we dropped only 1.5p on the week for 2500."
John Thorley of the National Sheep Association raised concerns, though, that farmers might rush big numbers to sale, for fear of plummeting prices. "But we are saying to farmers keep marketing sheep in a sensible way and we are saying to the consumer keep eating in a sensible way."
Throughout GB, 57,002 lambs were sold at auction on Monday. This marks a 65% rise on the previous bank holiday week and a 25% rise on the figure of 14 days earlier.
With prices on Monday 12% below the level of a fortnight earlier and 25% below year-earlier levels, concern and uncertainty remain the watchwords.
As auctioneer Gavin Loynes at Gloucester says: "Buyers dont want to get stuck with any lambs. Everyone is playing it close to their chests."
Farmers, after an initial sigh of relief, are now holding their breath. *