Sheep meat supplies on the rise

Supplies of sheep meat are likely to increase in 2016 due to higher levels of adult sheep slaughterings, according to the latest Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) forecasts. 

Mark Kozlowski, AHDB Beef & Lamb senior analyst, said the size of the breeding flock in the UK is thought to have remained stable in December 2015, while the lambing percentage is expected to have increased in 2016, leading to a slight increase in the size of the 2016 lamb crop.

He did warn that a smaller carryover of lambs from the 2015 crop would mean that overall lamb slaughterings were forecast to be 1% lower in 2016.

“Overall sheep meat production in the year is expected to be up by 2% at 304,400 tonnes as the result of a large increase in adult sheep slaughterings,” he said. “The number of adult cullings has been very low for the past two years, resulting in an older breeding flock. This trend is expected to be reversed in 2016, resulting in higher levels of mutton production and also leading to a rise in the number of lambs required as replacements.”

On the export side, Kozlowski believed the weakening of the pound could lead to a marginal increase while imports of sheep meat to the UK were expected to decline in 2016 due to a reduction in production in New Zealand, the major supplier to the UK.

He added that it was important to keep up the progress made over the past 12 months. “With higher levels of supplies available for consumption within the UK, maintaining the positive retail sales seen in the second half of 2015, as well as improving export sales, will remain important to how prices develop throughout the year. Other factors such as skin prices, rendering costs and offal exports will also have to be taken into account to optimise returns in the coming year.”

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