UFU beef and lamb chairman, Crosby Cleland, has said prices for new season lambs fail to reflect the impact of the stronger euro, which should be delivering better returns for early sheep producers.
“Currency should be helping local processors selling lamb into the European market – but farmers are not seeing any benefits,” said Mr Cleland.
“This week we have seen quotes drop to £4.30/kg for spring lambs which I do not see any justification for. It would appear that processors are waiting in expectation of a greater volume of spring lambs to come forward in the coming weeks. The cool spring has meant lamb performance has not been at an optimum level and this is reflected in the lower than normal number of lambs coming forward,” he said.
Mr Cleland said tighter numbers and more favourable currency should mean stronger prices, but at the minute it would appear that processors are deliberately undermining the positive impact this should be having.
The UFU says the stronger euro has seen factory agents from south of the border more active in marts here since the turn of the year. The majority of Northern Ireland lambs sold each week are now going directly for slaughter across the border.
“This is in contrast to the trading conditions last year when the majority were slaughtered in local plants. With prices here lagging well behind producer expectations I would encourage all farmers to consider the live market where there may be more competition,” added Mr Cleland.
The UFU says that regardless of where lambs are slaughtered it is important they meet the specification set by processors to reflect what consumers want. “It is imperative that we give consumers the best lamb eating experience every time they pick lamb off the shelves and we as farmers have an obligation to make sure lambs are sold in spec and ideally no heavier than 21kgs,” said Mr Cleland.