Lamb supply gives green light to marketing
By Peter Grimshaw
SUPERMARKETS are, as usual, holding off new season lamb marketing until they are convinced that there are abundant supplies.
That point appears to have arrived, triggered by the early spring.
Meanwhile, finishers are hurrying old-season hoggets off the farm as quickly as they can, aware that buyers "charge" for removal of specified risk material in 12-month-old sheep.
Gloucester auctioneer Gavin Loynes had the biggest hogget sale of this season on Monday, with 3000 forward. As a result he said there was an easier trade. Even so, his advice to anyone still with hoggets is "get them sold once they are over 44kg".
About 20 were found with adult teeth in this weeks market, as result of which they netted only two-thirds the price of the rest.
There was a similar picture at Exeter, Alan Venner selling 1300 hoggets to a respectable 101p/kg. "There are still plenty out there," he commented.
MLC is convinced that as numbers tail off, the underlying price trend is improving.
"In the past week or 10 days, the price has been running up quite nicely," says MLC sheep strategy manager, David Croston. But he too, stressed the need to dispose of any hoggets before permanent teeth erupt.
Gloucester market reported a big demand for 36-38kg new season lambs. Buyers paid up to 140p/kg for 100 offered.
At Exeter, it was a different picture, with lamb prices falling away by as much as £10 a head from the two previous weeks, at 111p/kg. "Many were up to 21kg, and should have been sold a fortnight ago," said Mr Venner.
Tesco has maintained a 25%:75% ratio of UK hoggets to New Zealand lamb throughout the season and claims the combination of quality from both sources has maintained a good trade.
The supermarket started to roll out its spring lamb promotion in 40 southern stores three weeks ago, and this will extend to others as lambs become available.
lEwe carcass exports are 60% down on 1997, due mainly to French interpretation of SRM rules. Numbers are increasing, however, says Gloucesters Gavin Loynes.
The MLC expects low prices will tempt farmers to give half-decent ewes another try.
For those selling, time is short. "If I had cull ewes, I would get them sold next week, before Ramadan," advises Mr Loynes. *