Easter and Brexit delay has helped sheep market

Easter and Brexit delay has helped sheep market

The Easter market and the decision to delay Brexit has helped to support the prime sheep market over the past few weeks, according to the latest analysis by Quality Meat Scotland (QMS).

QMS’ Stuart Ashworth explains lamb imports play an important part in maintaining consumer interest.

Despite the recent strengthening, producer prices remain 10-15% lower than last year.

The first of the new season lambs are also beginning to arrive on the market in similar numbers to last year.

However, in line with normal seasonal trends, the completion of Easter buying has seen market prices dip slightly this week along with throughputs.

Although trade data is not yet available for March, UK sheepmeat exports did see increased shipments during February.

Provisional indications from New Zealand are that they shipped less lamb to both the UK and Europe during March in the run up to Easter.

These trade patterns collectively point towards a tighter-supplied domestic market and rising prices.

“Lamb imports play an important part in maintaining consumer interest in lamb at this time of year,” said Stuart Ashworth, QMS director of Economics Services.

“Kantar Worldpanel consumer market data highlights the effect of Easter on consumer behaviour. Purchases of lamb can double in the four-week period ending with the Easter weekend compared to other times of the year.”

QMS also stated this time of year can see a change in consumers’ buying behaviour and demand for leg roasts can increase five or six-fold.

Ashworth observed: “The reality is that even if all the UK fresh lamb legs produced in the fortnight before Easter were all sold in the UK – and none were exported – there would still be a shortfall against demand.

“The challenge for processors is managing carcase balance, the key determinant of what they can pay producers, which comes from trying to meet the demand for leg roasts with the challenge of marketing those cuts of lamb not required by the UK consumer at Easter but which inevitably are produced.”

QMS also reported access to international markets is key to achieving return on the whole carcase, as a route to sell product not in immediate demand in the UK.

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