Optimism dwindles as quotes take a hit
This June bank holiday Monday was about as welcome to sheep farmers as our Justice Minister would be at Mick Wallace's birthday party. True to form, the quotes dice landed on a snake again as it did a year ago, two years ago and just about every year since I have been writing this column.
Actually, last year was not the worst, because farmer resistance and some recovery in markets led to a pretty quick increase in quotes and prices the following week and they remained fairly solid throughout the following month. While this might create a little hope and optimism, it is no guarantee for June 2013.
Ringing the factory sources trying to get quotes yesterday morning, I felt like the Waterford hurlers shooting for points on Sunday. Success was sporadic at best. The table bears testimony to this. Only three factories were willing to offer a quote.
Credit should go to the ICM plants for their efforts to maintain some form of a credible quote and give some stability to farmers with lambs to sell. Nonetheless, the ICM quote is still down by 40c/kg or between €8-9/lamb at a base quote of 530c/kg plus the 6c/kg bonus. I heard payment was based on up to carcase weight of 21kg. Moyvalley Meats was the only other plant willing to put its head on the block and it quoted an all-in figure of 530c/kg. Neither the Kepak plants or the Dawn plants quoted for any category when contacted and Kildare Chilling only quoted for hoggets and ewes.
On the hoggets, only Kildare Chilling and ICM Navan offered a quote. Both are on a base of 450c/kg plus the bonus, with Kildare offering an extra top up of 5c/kg for Quality Assured stock. Those quotes represent a fall of 40c/kg since last week.
IFA sheep chairman James Murphy said there was major anger and frustration among sheep farmers at the way lamb factories had pulled prices to loss-making levels. In the last week, some factories have slashed prices by 70-100c/kg or €15 to €20 per lamb.
The ICM plants quoted 190c/kg for cull ewes, while Kildare quoted 180c/kg.
Meanwhile, Bord Bia described the sheep trade last week as easing, despite a drop in supplies being evident. Demand fell somewhat as most consumers had stocked up in advance of the bank holiday period.