Throughputs: Sheep throughputs have tightened due to a slowdown in demand in some of our key export markets.  The closure of marts and the nationwide lockdown of Friday last are also contributing factors in numbers tightening.  For the week ended 28th March, a total of 45,665 sheep were processed, this was equivalent to an 18% drop compared to the previous week, or some 10,069 less sheep.

For the year to date, total throughput for sheep in Ireland is 652,660 head which is 16% higher than the corresponding period in 2019.  This increase is due to an extra 102,653 additional hoggets which were carried over in 2020.   At 21.74kg, average carcase weights are marginally back on last year’s levels of 21.99kg.

A total of 94,000 sheep from the N. Ireland were exported to ROI for direct slaughter in the first quarter of 2020.  This compares 92,000 head of NI live exports in the equivalent period in 2019. 

 Prices: The average factory price for sheepmeat in Ireland for the week ended 28th March was €5.37/kg excluding VAT. This price represents a 37c/kg increase on the price for the same week last year. The GB lamb price for last week was £5.17/kg, which equates to €5.84/kg with a weaker sterling in the past week. This is a 35p/kg reduction in the past week. Northern Ireland lamb prices are currently standing at €5.20/kg (£4.60/kg).

Base quotes this week have seen a reduction by 20-30c/kg in light of the Coronavirus outbreak, with demand decreasing. The prices for QA lambs are running 10c/kg higher as a bonus in factories. A high percentage of carry over hoggets are trading from €5.10-5.30/kg Irish lamb in competing well within EU markets, with a strong retail performance attributing to this. Spring lamb trade is likely to begin shortly too with Ramadan and Easter festivals occurring in the next 4 weeks. Quotes of €5.90-€6/kg, but factories are unsure of demand.

Markets: Markets remain volatile particularly on the continent where foodservice has grounded to a complete halt.  Easter which is more than one week away, is helping to underpin demand both on the domestic and in export markets.  As of mid-week, trade picked up as Irish retailers put in place promotions plan.  With smaller family gatherings the focus is on half legs as against the traditional full leg roast.  Looking beyond next week, there are concerns of a collapse in the market post the Easter trade.  If this were to materialise, it is hoped that it would be short lived as the sheep meat trade should rally ahead of Ramadan (23th April – 23th May).

Demand across our key export markets of Belgium, France and Germany is very subdued.  In France it is estimated that sheep slaughterings have declined by more than third. French retailers and food manufacturers are working towards a policy of sourcing locally.   Supplies of Lacune lamb remain strong.  

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