Farm Ireland

Tuesday 12 December 2017

Numbers drop underpins rise in sheep price

Irish to gain from dip in European and NZ supplies

Caitriona Murphy

Caitriona Murphy

Sheep farmers should enjoy a sustained period of steady prices, Bord Bia has predicted.

Irish factory prices are currently running 15pc ahead of 2009, a trend that is being driven almost exclusively by lower supplies at home and across Europe.

Sheep and lamb supplies on the European market are not expected to recover in the next few years, Margaret McCarthy from Bord Bia has pointed out, and this will help underpin returns for Irish producers.

"Current forecasts show there will not be any sudden influx of supplies in the coming years, particularly in the key Continental lamb producing countries like Spain or France," the industry analyst said.

The total EU flock is running at about 87.6m head and forecasts for 2010-2015 show a further five percent tightening," Ms McCarthy explained.

However, she added that there was an expectation that average carcass weights would increase by around 2pc.

"This year, total EU consumption is at around 1.22m tonnes and, although in general decline, the rate of decline is not as accelerated as production and the 2010-2015 change is forecasted at minus 1.4pc," she said.


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Although imports into the EU from New Zealand were down 10-15pc this year, they are expected to return to normal quota volumes of 230,000t in 2011.

"New Zealand farmers lost one million lambs in storms in August and September, out of a total production of 18m lambs," she explained. "The effect of their loss has been palpable in the market."

Ms McCarthy said the outlook for the sheep sector was positive but she sounded a note of caution regarding the high prices paid by farmers for replacements and stores in recent months.

"There is a ceiling on what people can pay for lambs," she pointed out, referring to factory buyers. A lot will depend on how consumption recovers in the Continental markets.

"Lamb is expensive compared to other meats."

Meanwhile, higher sheep prices have effectively priced Ireland out of the live sheep export market this year.

The number of sheep exported live from Ireland has fallen by 49pc or almost 20,000hd so far this year, compared to the same period in 2009.

Irish Independent