Price lifts halt as factories hold firm

Joe Healy

The past week signalled the end or possible end to a lot of things we had become accustomed of taking for granted -- George Lee in the Dail, Charlie Bird in Washington, Liam Brady as assistant to Giovanni Trapattoni, Enda as the next Taoiseach, Kidney's team winning and Galway hurlers being beaten in big games or finals.

However, as I've often said in these pages, always expect the unexpected. It is no different when it comes to the sheep trade, and the good and ever-improving prices that have become the norm since last November are beginning to show signs of strain. Not altogether as obvious as the signs on the faces of John Hayes, Paul O'Connell and, indeed, the rest of the Irish rugby team in Paris last Saturday -- but signs all the same.

Every factory man said the tight supplies were a blessing. The only reason the quotes have more or less held was because the markets were sluggish and the consumer reacted to the recent strong lamb prices and was more inclined to choose another meat.

The good news from a farmer's point of view is that, apart from a drop of 10c/kg from last week's top plant Moyvalley, all the rest have retained their base quotes at 460c/kg plus the bonus. Even allowing for the decrease at Moyvalley, it is still on an all-in quote of 460c/kg. Carcass weights of 23kg seem to be the norm.

ICM Camolin's quote was for yesterday only and it is not killing again until Thursday. More importantly, for sellers at the moment, is that despite a gloomy picture being painted by the plants they are, according to IFA's James Murphy, having to pay 480c/kg or more in order to secure stock from a tight supply.

The cull ewe trade remains strong, with quotes ranging from a high of 260c/kg at Kildare Chilling down to a low of 200c/kg at Moyvalley. Both ICM plants are on 250c/kg. Kepak Hacketstown is offering 240c/kg while its sister plant in Athleague is quoting 10c/kg less at 230c/kg. Dawn Ballyhaunis is quoting 220c/kg.

The sheep trade remained steady in the past week, according to Bord Bia, although limited volumes of lambs are entering the French market due to lower demand. However, trade continues to hold up well on the Irish market in response to the tight supplies.

Quotes for lambs at export meat plants are still around 465c/kg, while trade for cull ewes continues to perform strongly with quotes of 240c/kg.

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In the UK, trade at the live markets has eased as a stronger sterling has affected competitiveness. By the end of the week, the average old season SQQ price stood at the equivalent of 482c/kg including VAT.

In France, demand for lamb is quieter. Irish Grade 1 lambs delivered to Paris made in the region of 505-515c/kg incl VAT.

TNS figures show that the quantity of lamb bought by British households fell by 9pc last year as a result of lower penetration rates and a rise in the relative price of lamb compared to other meats -- average retail lamb prices jumped by 7pc to £6.70/kg. However, there was some positive activity within some segments of the lamb category, most notably stewing lamb, where purchases rose by 10pc indicating that consumers are still willing to buy lamb.

Irish Independent

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