AHDB Cattle and Sheep Weekly
05 December 2014
Lamb trade at its highest point since July
Following a period of relative stability in the liveweight lamb trade since mid-November, the SQQ at GB auction marts picked up pace in week ended 3 December, increasing a considerable 7p on the week to average 181.6p/kg. After a subdued start to trade in the week, the SQQ peaked on Wednesday 3 December at 187.8p/kg, up 15p on the week. It is likely that the key driver of this uplift will be the many Christmas shows and sales taking place at this time of year. However, at 129,000 head, the number of lambs penned nationally fell 8% on the week, which may have helped to tip the supply and demand balance more in producers’ favour. The SQQ is now at its highest point since July, tracking around 10p above last year’s level.
The cull ewe market continued its robust performance in the week, with the average price increasing £3 on the week to almost £65 per head. This came as the number of ewes marketed was notably lower on the week. At this level, cull ewes are achieving around £17 per head more than at the same time last year.
Less sheep meat coming from ‘down under’
UK trade figures for September show that sheep meat imports had fallen back below year earlier levels. Latest figures from New Zealand and Australia suggest that trend will continue for the rest of this year. In September and October, New Zealand exported 11% less sheep meat to the UK than in the same months last year. This product would mostly have arrived here during October and November. At this level, volumes were as much as 28%, or 2,150 tonnes, lower than in 2012, suggesting that imports won’t exert the same downward pressure on UK prices that they did in winter 2012-13. Prices were also substantially higher than in 2012, although only slightly up on last year.
In recent months, higher imports from Australia have mitigated the fall in New Zealand shipments to some extent. However, export figures for September suggest this may be over too, with 19% less sheep meat sent to the UK than in September 2013. Reports from New Zealand suggest that a slow start to the season means that processors have struggled to secure sufficient lambs to satisfy export demand for the Christmas trade. This may mean that UK buyers have had to switch demand to lamb from the home market, contributing to the recent price increases
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