By Tim Relf
FARMERS are shopping early for sheep quota, determined to avoid a repeat of last year when many left it to the last-minute only to find it expensive or unobtainable.
Six weeks into the quota trading period, which runs to 4 February, McCartneys auctioneer Chris Jones says: “Everyone wanted it at the beginning. It is the complete opposite of last year.”
GB lowland quota is leasing for £6-£7 and selling for £14-£15 a unit. For Welsh LFA samples, the figures are about £10 and £25-£26.
Although it can be bought for little more than twice its lease cost, more people are opting to lease, rather than buy, in the face of tight cashflows, says Mr Jones.
Richard Hyde of Sunderlands also says demand is outstripping supply. “We virtually cleared the slate at our auction last week and the cupboard is now bare.”
Welsh LFA quota could be in particularly short supply, says Mr Hyde, with farmers preferring to hang on to small cull ewes rather than sell them on the depressed market.
Duncan Clark of traders DCFM says: “There is always a rush early, but this year the rush has carried on.”
Less is on the market as farmers, disillusioned with low finished-lamb prices, plan to claim on ewe lambs, says Mr Clark. This happened last season after Christmas, meaning more sheep are now in the system, further tightening the quota supply/demand equation.
Farmers are also postponing leasing-out or selling in the hope prices will rise further. “We have not seen a season like this for many years, and some people are hoping it will get even more expensive.”