Beef and lamb demand in the UK

Figures show that Britons have a firm demand for beef and lamb, according to the latest figures from Quality Meat Scotland (QMS).

Figures from Kantar Worldpanel showed the volume of beef sold increased by 2% over the past three months on the domestic market compared with last year, despite higher prices.

More significantly, retail sales of lamb have increased in the past quarter as retail prices fell below earlier levels due to lower farmgate prices.

Deadweight prices for cattle in Scotland and the UK have moved up to stand around 7% higher than this time last year, explained head of economics services at QMS Stuart Ashworth.

Slaughter statistics for January showed a 0.5% increase in the prime kill, with an increase of 2.5% reported by Northern Ireland, according to Ashworth.

Volumes slaughtered in England and Wales were 6% lower than last year, and carcase weights fell by around 2%, meaning beef supplies across the UK as a whole proved to be 3% lower than January 2012. "Since then the Scottish price reporting abattoirs have reported an increase of 4% in the kill compared to last year with English and Welsh price reporting abattoirs showing a 2.5% increase," said Ashworth.

"Therefore, during February the volume of beef produced is likely to have increased. With prices remaining firm this increased supply points to an underlying strength in the marketplace."

In the lamb market, he added: "Lamb slaughter volumes across the UK during January were 125,000 head (13%) higher than last year which is beginning to make useful inroads into the increased carryover of hogs into 2013."

Carcase weights for cattle have fallen 3-4%, meaning the rise in meat production is slightly less than stock availability.

In Ireland, export abattoirs have handled 7% more cattle and 25% more hogs since the new year, but market prices have improved.

"The producer to processor market in both the UK and Ireland, is giving a clear message of firm demand for both beef and lamb. From a UK perspective, the dramatic weakening of sterling from around 81p per euro at the start of the year to 87p at the time of writing has helped our exporters," said Ashworth.

"A tightening of supply in many European markets is also helping. For example, French beef production fell 6% in 2012 and is expected to fall a further 1.8% in 2013," he added.

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