The past three months has seen a massive surge in demand for lamb, with the volume of sheepmeat sold by UK retailers growing 21 per cent, according to market research company Kantar Worldpanel.
The upsurge in demand, according to Stuart Ashworth of Quality Meat Scotland, was the result of consumers being tempted by the 9.5 per cent fall in the average retail price, reflecting lower farmgate prices.
“Although the producer price for lamb has risen since May, and currently stands about 10 per cent ahead of last year, this is less than the 15 per cent increase for prime cattle and 12 per cent increase for pigs,” he said.
He believed retailers should still be able to offer lamb at competitive prices compared to beef and pork and, with UK lamb supplies undoubtedly tighter than last year, producers should look forward to continued firm prices for lamb.
The supply side of the lamb trade has been badly affected by the long very cold spring and new-season lambs had been slow to arrive on the UK market but the long tail-end of hoggs from last year had kept the market well supplied.
As June has progressed availability of new season lambs has improved. However, auction sales of new season lambs are still running around 25 per cent lower than last year and, even in mid-June, there were still significant numbers of hoggs reaching the market.
On the export front, despite some opportunities in the European market, the UK exported less sheepmeat to France in the first four months of the year than a year previously. However, trade in sheepmeat with Germany, Italy and the Netherlands increased. Overall, UK exports in the first four months of the year were little changed.
Although supplies of New Zealand lamb into the UK were well ahead of last year, their trade with other European customers has been more cautious.