AHDB Cattle and Sheep Weekly
18 May 2015
Lamb prices begin to increase
Lamb prices at GB auction markets continued the moderate increases that began last week. In week ended 13 May, the OSL SQQ increased by more than 2p on the previous week to average 179.1p/kg. Even so, the difference compared to the same week in 2014 increased to nearly 30p. Prices appear to have been stabilising in recent weeks as total lamb numbers have been falling. This has been due to the old season trade coming to an end and with the new season yet to get into full swing. The tightening of old season lamb supplies continued in the week, with numbers marketed up just 6% on the previous week, despite there being an extra trading day. The total number of old season lambs sold at auction was 13% up on 2014 levels but the number included in the SQQ was actually down 6%, suggesting an increase in overweight, out of specification lambs this year.
The new season trade continues to increase, with numbers penned up 87% on the previous week as the market continues to move towards the switchover of seasons. Prices held up well, partly due to the tightening of old season stocks. In week ended 13 May, the NSL SQQ was up by over 3p on the week to average 209.7p/kg. Despite this, the difference compared with 2014 increased to leave the NSL SQQ almost 40p down on the year.
Sharp increase in March sheep meat imports
According to the latest figures from HMRC, imports of sheep meat to the UK continued to increase in March and were up by over a third on levels seen in 2014, at 15,200 tonnes. The largest increase came from New Zealand, with imports up by over 50% to 12,800 tonnes. This is a continuing result of the high slaughterings following the drought in New Zealand and the weak levels of demand for sheep meat shown by China so far in 2015. Some of this increase continues to be offset by lower imports from both Australia and Ireland, down 11% and 47% respectively. In value terms, increased average unit prices led to a 45% increase in the total value of imports, to £72 million.
There is concern that the export data for March again does not show the true picture, with exports reported to be down 23% on the year at 6,500 tonnes, even though Easter was earlier this year. It includes a 15% decrease in exports to France. This conflicts with French data which report a significant rise in imports of sheep meat from the UK in March. Despite the reported fall in exports to France, figures for shipments to the EU as a whole were up by 2% at 6,300 tonnes.
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