AHDB Cattle and Sheep Weekly
20 February 2015
Lamb trade still relatively firm
With prices continuing to track around last year’s position, for another week the lamb trade has demonstrated some degree of positivity. In week ended 18 February, with fewer lambs coming forward at GB auction marts, the trade appeared to be finely balanced and the SQQ levelled at 189.6p/kg. By the end of the week, prices were still robust, with the SQQ on Wednesday 18 February being up a penny on the week at 187.9p/kg. Firm prices have also continued into Thursday, with the provisional (5pm) SQQ just edging over 190p/kg. The cull ewe market at auction is also continuing its positive performance. Despite more cull ewes forward, the average value in week ended 18 February was still around £75 per head, significantly ahead of this time last year.
Also still tracking above year earlier levels, the deadweight lamb trade has also been robust in the latest week. Despite estimates suggesting that more lambs came forward compared with the week earlier, the SQQ moved up 13p to average 424.4p/kg, trading around 10p higher year on year. Combined with the robustness in the liveweight trade, this indicates that demand for sheep meat in general at the moment is relatively strong. As we head towards Easter, this may generate some optimism amongst producers.
Sheep meat imports lower in December
According to latest HMRC data sheep meat imports in December were reported to be back 15% on the year at 5,800 tonnes. This came as increased shipments from New Zealand were more than offset by significantly lower imports from Australia and Ireland. The data indicates that the 6% increase in volumes from New Zealand was largely a result of another notable increase in shipments of fresh/chilled legs. The consequence of the increased volumes of legs from New Zealand was that they accounted for 54% of the overall import mix, significantly more than the 43% share in the corresponding month last year. For the year as a whole, a reduced New Zealand lamb crop and the continuing emergence of China as a key market for the global trade mean that UK sheep meat imports were down around 6% year on year at 92,400 tonnes.
The export data for December may not fully reflect the true picture again, showing a decline to the three main markets of France, Hong Kong and Germany. With farmgate prices continuing to hold up against the backdrop of more lambs being marketed, intelligence would suggest that the data in recent months does not reflect the progression of trade.
Irish lamb production edges up in 2014
With a bigger lamb crop in Ireland throughputs last year are reported to be a fraction up on the year at 2.5 million head. A recovery in carcase weights has offset a decline in adult slaughterings to some degree and consequently sheep meat production in the year edged up 1% to amount to 58,000 tonnes. More analysis on sheep meat production in Ireland last year and the outlook for this year is available on the EBLEX website.
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