Lamb price rise expected

Sheep farmers will be expecting lamb prices to rise rapidly in the wake of the lifting of FMD export restrictions across most of England and Wales, the NFU said today.

Controls on the export of carcase meat have now been lifted, apart from in the FMD restricted zones which still cover a large part of the South East of England.

That leaves the way clear to re-build an export market that had been worth some £10m a week for lamb and £3.5m a week for beef before the FMD outbreaks in August and September.

The loss of those markets for most of the last three and a half months has unbalanced the domestic markets for beef and lamb, causing prices to tumble, for lamb especially.

Lamb prices are currently almost 40% lower than at this time last year, largely as a result of the loss of the export market.

NFU livestock board chairman Thomas Binns said the lifting of restrictions would give a welcome boost both to morale among livestock farmers and, crucially, to market prices.

"Given the quality of our beef and lamb, and the fact that currency markets are running in our favour at present, there is no reason why exports of beef and lamb should not be rapidly re-built, with an uplift in prices to match. Our ongoing discussions with the trade suggest the demand is there for lambs and mature beef and we're confident the market price should rise. We'll be monitoring the situation closely and if it doesn't we'll be asking questions as to why.

"We now have the chance to re-establish our beef and lamb on European markets as the world class products they are. It is vital that the whole livestock industry works together to re-build the trade and start the long process of restoring prices to sustainable levels.

"However, we must not forget that restrictions are still in place across much of the South and South-East of England. We shall continue to do everything we can to get those controls lifted at the earliest possible opportunity, and we hope to be able to make real progress on that in the coming days."

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