With new season lamb prices at their lowest level since 2012, Ulster Farmers’ Union Beef and Lamb Chairman Crosby Cleland has said that prices must rise if sheep producers are going to have any chance of making a margin this year.
UFU Beef and Lamb Chair Crosby Cleland said that with Easter a little earlier this year, there has to date been an increase in new season lambs available on the market, not just in Northern Ireland, but across the British Isles.
He added: “A considerably higher number of hoggets were also finished in Britain this year compared with 2014 and this overall surplus combined with the weak Euro has made trading conditions difficult for producers all over the UK.
“The quotes this week from processors of 350p/kg for new season lamb have not been this low seen since 2012, which was itself a very difficult year for sheep producers in terms of both market returns and weather conditions. The trade did however improve as we moved into June that year and realistically we need to see this rise happen again to give producers any chance of making a margin.
“With the average deadweight prices in Britain still over £4/kg, a lot of producers are questioning why Northern Ireland is being so severely disadvantaged. We are all producing a UK product and are going into the same markets so there is absolutely no reason why local processors can’t step up to the mark and equal what is being paid in GB. I also don’t think it is unfair to comment that local processors have been very quick to pull prices this spring and have been slow to lift prices again when the trade has improved.”
Mr Cleland continued: “While processors continue to offer unsatisfactory prices, we still need to keep our eye on the end market and I would strongly appeal to all producers to make sure their lambs are in-spec and no heavier than 21 kilos. We must always keep the consumer at the forefront of our mind and ultimately it is to our benefit that we adhere to the specification to ensure that the consumer is presented with an attractive product on the retail shelf and so that we can achieve the best price per kilo of meat produced that we can.”