By Farmers Weekly staff
NEW-SEASON lamb prices are expected to stay “reasonably good” for a few more weeks as long as they are not overfat or too heavy.
Although the last-minute surge for the Easter trade both here and on the Continent had buyers looking for supplies late last week – and paying up to 154p/kg and £70/head in Exeter market this week – the general deadweight price on offer in the south west was £3.00/kg for R3Ls.
Alan Venner at Exeter said the trade this year was far better than last year when it peaked at 130p/kg for two weeks. He had the impression there were not so many hoggets about as was once feared – and good-quality types were still making £1/kg at auction.
MLC economist Lesley Green said the signs were that hoggett supplies were tailing off and there were fewer new-season lambs around this year.
John Bailey of Lloyd Maunder, Devon, said current new-season prices were much better than last years because bad weather had slowed down lamb growth and Easter was earlier.
Exports to the Continental Easter trade had a significant impact on demand here and so he expected prices to quieten down fairly quickly after Easter.
“Nevertheless, I can see prices for handy-weight good-quality lambs remaining good for the next month or so. The condition of the lambs will decide the price.”
Imports were another factor affecting prices. “There is a lot of New Zealand lamb in everybodys systems. It has a finite life and so will have to be used”, said Mr Bailey. There was likely to be a promotional push by retailers and the New Zealanders after Easter.
Chairman of Cornish Quality Lamb Producers co-op, Stuart Horne, said lambs had been at least two weeks later this year because of bad weather but were now coming forward in good numbers.
There appeared to be a growing demand for outdoor-reared early lambs, added Mr Horne.
“I think there could be a real scarcity of hoggets in Scotland before new-season lambs come forward in numbers,” he told a news conference last week.
“Our numbers through the mart are running about 2000 a week lower than last year and there was a big rush to meet the Easter market. The quality was not good – there were a lot of ill-finished hoggets forward.