Lamb price in doldrums despite good aid uptake

By FW Staff

DESPITE a good response to the recently announced private storage aid for sheepmeat, lamb prices have shown little recovery from recent historic lows.

But the scheme could open new markets for frozen British lamb.

By the start of this week, nearly 1500 tonnes of lamb had been accepted into store, almost two-thirds of the permitted UK tonnage set by the EU last month. All 2400t should be taken up by the 20 November deadline, says the Intervention Board.

GB SQQ lambs, p/kg

“Nothing has happened to the SQQ [standard quality quotation] price,” says Lesley Green of the Meat and Livestock Commission. “It may be that buyers have not yet sourced lambs.”

Although the SQQ edged up last week to average 68.22p/kg, this weeks average was 64.56p/kg, well over a third down on last year.

Throughput also dropped. June figures showed 6% more lambs on-farm this year. That, and slow marketing, means October-December slaughterings must exceed last years final quarter figure by 18% to leave the same number of lambs post-Christmas. But October figures show a 10% increase.

This makes earlier forecasts of 70p/kg seem optimistic, says Mrs Green. Main hopes are for a weakening Pound to boost exports, and that producers will cull ewes and keep ewe lambs. But October cull values of £14.52 are half the 1997 price.

One of the biggest participants in the private storage aid scheme is Cornwall-based St Merryn Meat, which has had 500 tonnes accepted.

The contract will account for more than 30,000 lambs, just short of four weeks throughput, says managing director Bart Stacey. “Unfortunately, we have only seen a very slight rise in the price of better lambs since the scheme started.”

Quality is paramount, Mr Stacey emphasises. Frozen lamb has to be stored for three to seven months, so will compete with New Zealand supplies.

Another 250 tonnes has been tendered by Anglo Beef Processors in a joint venture with Sainsbury, which will also market frozen lamb to test performance against New Zealand supplies.

“It will be cut to New Zealand specifications, and will be offered side by side,” says an ABP spokesman.

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