Stabilisation for Scottish sheep sector

The Scottish sheep sector is expected to see a period of stabilisation in the next six months, according to a report from Quality Meat Scotland (QMS).

Producer prices are said to have seen a sharp fall in October this year, leaving the domestic market with slightly better supply, said the report.

Head of economics services at QMS Stuart Ashworth explained that the French, Spanish, Portuguese and German flocks are all expected to continue to decline into next year. He said: “Consequently, opportunities will continue to exist in mainland European markets. Alongside this, the improving competitiveness of lamb on the domestic market, as a result of rising beef and pork prices, will help to stabilise a somewhat better supplied sheepmeat market.”

However, Ashworth commented that shorter-term prices for lambs in Scotland had fallen by about 8% in the last month. But prices in England and Wales had seen more of a modest drop (3%) and deadweight prices had seen a reported drop of 4% in the last month.

Current levels show Scottish auction prices to have fallen below 2010 levels, while prices in England and Wales now, are similar to those of two years ago, but both below last year’s prices.

According to Ashworth, a number of reasons accounted for the fall in prices. He said: “When we look at prime lamb slaughterings in GB between June and the end of September we find volumes down 8% on the year.

“Although we do not have results for a full GB census, it is unlikely that the lamb crop is any smaller than last year and so, with fewer lambs killed so far this season, we must see some increase in the short-term and this is beginning to happen as October draws to a close.”

Ashworth also highlighted that auction market volumes had increased by more than 20% in the last month and numbers in deadweight-reporting abattoirs had also seen an increase of nearly 8%. He said: “Evidence from price-reporting abattoirs suggests that the quality of lambs has fallen over the past month with 58% grading R3L or better compared to 66% a month ago and 59% a year ago.

“So, in summary the market is currently better-supplied than a month ago, but the quality has fallen. This is perhaps not too much of a surprise given the challenges of producing quality forage this year and the slower growth rates reported by many producers.”

Related news:

>Scottish cattle prices still edging upwards

>Difficult winter ahead for Scotch red meat producers

>QMS launches new Scottish lamb promotion


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