More lambs hitting “supermarket spec” together with the success of a national marketing campaign and a fall in numbers forward has helped reverse the recent nose-dive in sheep prices, according to Quality Meat Scotland.

With prime lamb prices showing a rise of close to 7p a kg liveweight last week – after falling for the previous four – the average price was back in line with prices during the same period in 2016, according to Stuart Ashworth, head of the organisation’s economic services.

Ashworth said that during the past week the quality of lambs forward for sale had improved significantly on those forward two weeks ago, with more than 75 per cent falling into the 25–45 kg live weight range.

However, he said that lambs falling around the 40 kg weight sought by supermarkets had shown the biggest rise and had been selling at a significant premium of 8-9p kg liveweight over lighter weight lambs and 3-5p per kilo over heavier lambs.

“This firm demand from the supermarkets would suggest that QMS’s current Scotch Lamb PGI marketing campaign and the GB-wide Love Lamb Week promotions are having an impact on demand.” said Ashworth.

While the downturn in lamb numbers being taken to the market had also helped the price, recent improvements had seen more forward later in the week – without any significant impact on prices.

Ashworth added that the weather might also have had an influence on supply, with the poor autumn slowing growth rates, a factor which he said could have implications for supplies later in the season.

He said that June census data had been published for England, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland and all the reports had one thing in common – an increase of around 2 per cent in the number of lambs on farms in June 2017.

And, looking to the market over the coming months he said that with the UK lamb slaughter figures between June and the end of August unchanged on last year – and auction throughputs in September lower than last year – there could be more lambs overhanging the market.

Looking beyond the domestic market, Ashworth said that fewer lambs coming onto the market in France had given UK and Irish farmers an opportunity to export more sheepmeat to the continent– but a slight strengthening of the pound had hampered any significant impact on UK farmgate prices.

He also said that with production up in New Zealand there was a potential for more imports to arrive in the UK – but added that with the Kiwis concentrating on finding markets other than Europe, the threat was lessened.

BRIAN HENDERSON

bhenderson@farming.co.uk

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