Lamb prices in free-fall

By FWi Staff

LAMB prices have fallen sharply over the past three weeks, plummeting to 85p/kg in the week ending 5 September. When many producers thought prices could fall no more, they were faced with yet another slump at markets around the country yesterday (Monday).

Slight lambs took the largest fall, dropping 16.41p to 65.79p/kg. Light samples also suffered heavily, falling 9.77p to 68.95p/kg. Medium lambs achieved the highest price of 81.03p/kg, while heavy lambs rose by 2.69p to 77.13p/kg.

Although slaughterings are up on last year, the MLC does not think the pressure of numbers is the cause of the price movements. In August, clean sheep slaughterings were 5% up on 1997.

Slaughterings in August had been forecast to show a larger year-on-year increase, but lambs have been slow to finish this year because of the poor weather, and this was echoed at the markets as the throughput of finished lambs fell by a further 27% yesterday.

Auctioneer Stuart Long of Howkins and Harrison, reported a mixed market at Rugby. Well finished lambs achieved prices of over 80p/kg while lean lambs were difficult to sell ranging between 70-75p/kg.

“Prices were down 4p/kg on last week and of the 1100 lambs brought to market only 900 were sold. It is very unusual for lambs to go home unsold, and was caused by buyer resistance,” said Mr Long.

David Probert of Hereford market reported a more positive picture, with medium and heavy lambs selling close to 85p/kg. “This was due to a fall-off in numbers, and a high demand. One buyer had a triple lorry to fill.” Light lambs ranged between 73-74p/kg.

Following the troubles in Russia, skin prices are thought to have fallen to about £2 or even lower and prospects do not look good for the lamb trade this Autumn. The MLC has reported increased lamb supplies due to come on to the market. The June census for England showed a rise of 6% in lambs under one year old.

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