Prime hogg prices up as supply falls

Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) has reported a rising trend in prime hogg prices, underpinned by a tightening of supply.

At the start of 2014, prices were comparable to 2012, with some 25% higher than 12 months ago. Underlying this is a slow tightening in the supply of hogs. Scottish auction market throughputs were 3% lower in December than the year before and auction prices have begun to rise.

UK ewe slaughterings ran 10% higher between June and November than the year before.

Stuart Ashworth, QMS head of economic services, said: Between June and November 2013, UK abattoirs handled 3.5% more lambs than in 2012. When placed in the context of a June census, which showed a UK lamb crop around 1% higher than in 2012, the increase in slaughterings has already absorbed more than the increase in the lamb crop. Hence, hogg finishers can enter 2014 with an expectation of further tightening in slaughter hogg availability.

In France, the lamb kill was 4% lower between June and November.

Ashworth said: This created some demand for increased UK and Irish imports, which also helped to support UK and Irish producer prices in late 2013. Despite some reduction in sheepmeat consumption in France in recent years, the fact that the French ewe flock has declined by more than 20% over the past decade means that opportunities continue to exist for Scottish exporters.

Ultimately, consumer demand will drive the UK market. In this respect retail market intelligence is favourable, showing growth in lamb consumption over the past quarter at the expense of beef. Nevertheless, the growth in consumption has slowed as the retail price of lamb has increased in recent weeks, reflecting some of the producer price movement.

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