New lamb season sees slow start

A strong sterling, low export demand, and heavy hoggs have all contributed to a slow start for the new lamb season, according to Quality Meat Scotland (QMS).

Stuart Ashworth, QMS’ head of economics services, explained that the strong sterling and falling demand from overseas were constraining export activity.

He said: “In our main export market of France, lamb consumption has declined over the past year. Wholesale prices at the Rungis market are struggling to match those of a year ago and French producers are currently receiving 2.3% less in euro terms than last year for their lambs.”

QMS added that the total proportion of hoggs, which were too heavy to be categorised in the Standard Quality Quotation – over 45kg liveweight – had increased to 34% in April 2015, up from 27% in April 2014.

“This will have acted as a break on the overall trade and the availability of heavy hoggs may also have impacted on the cull ewe trade, which has seen prices fall below year-earlier levels for the first time since July,” said Ashworth.

The 2014 lamb crop year is drawing to a close on a low note, with prices sliding in the past couple of weeks by around 20p/kg liveweight to rest some 16% down on the year; the easing of prices has been particularly marked following the Easter period, according to QMS.

While new-season lambs are beginning to reach the market, the red meat body believed the outcome remained uncertain, with low starting prices, a strong sterling and a larger crop expected this year.

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