New Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin would love it if the latest opinion polls showed the political parties to be as close to each other as the factory quotes are for lamb.
I know that our processors have never, or probably will never, tell us that the markets are great and that further price improvements are inevitable, but even I can accept the almost unanimous portrayal from them of an extremely sluggish market with some cuts proving difficult to sell.
On the other hand, there is no way that the farmer is making a fortune at prices of €5/kg and, considering the way costs have risen over the past few months, if lambs are being sold at much less than this figure, they are being sold at a loss.
Quotes, while seemingly under pressure, are thankfully more or less holding their own, mainly due to an acceptance by the factories that the farmers just will not sell at anything less and are generally bargaining for prices of a minimum of 490c/kg.
In any case, Moyvalley, despite pulling its quote by 5c/kg, remain tops with its all-in figure of 480c/kg. Kildare Chilling is there or thereabouts, with an unchanged quote of 470c/kg plus 6c/kg plus 5c/kg for the Quality Assured lambs.
All of the other plants have held onto last week's quote of a base 470c/kg plus the bonus.
Commenting on the trade, IFA sheep chairman James Murphy said that factories are trying to put downward pressure on prices and trying to buy lambs at 490c/kg but this was proving difficult for them as farmers were holding out and refusing to sell at less than €5/kg. Scarce supplies helping the farmer's cause in this regard.
The cull ewe trade also remains unchanged with the two ICM plants and Kildare quoting 280c/kg. Kepak Hacketstown is on 275c/kg, with both western processors offering 270c/kg.
Bord Bia reported that the sheep trade remained steady over the past week as ongoing tight supplies continued to maintain trade.
Quotes for lambs during the week continued to make up to 480c/kg. Similarly, trade for cull ewes remained firm, reflecting strong manufacturing demand. Stock here were still making up to 280c/kg and more.
In Britain, the trade eased during the week on the back of some strengthening in Sterling.
By the end of the week, live market prices were making the equivalent of 451c/kg dead weight including VAT.
In France, increased domestic supplies of Lacaune lamb continue to match local demand levels. Of the limited volumes of Grade 1 Irish lamb entering the market, they were still making up to 515c/kg inclusive of VAT.
By the final quarter of last year, around two thirds of Northern Ireland's lambs were being exported to the Republic for direct slaughter. This transformation took place over just one year, according to the Livestock and Meat Commission.
In 2009, only one-third went over the Border, with the remainder being sold through the 'local' deadweight centres. Unsurprisingly, it has impacted on the abattoir sector. The number of breeding ewes on the ground has fallen from 1.45million in 1998 to 875,000 last year.
"Compounding this has been a gradual drift to the marts among sheep producers in NI, where Southern buyers are buying up large numbers of lambs for processing inSouthern plants. A weak pound boosted this trade while access to the lucrative halal market possibly meant that some Southern operators could afford to pay more for raw material."