Farm Ireland

Thursday 22 March 2018

Factories: Attempts to cut lamb prices come to nought

Martin Coughlan

Martin Coughlan

Official quotes for lamb and cull ewes remained steady yesterday as factory demand continues to eat into strong supplies. Bord Bia reports overall throughputs at export meat plants for the week ending November 25 stood at over 65,000 head which was on a par with the previous week and 8,000 head or 14pc higher compared to the corresponding week in 2016.

Cumulative figures for the year to date have reached 2.64 million head, up 10pc or 242,000 head compared to the same period in 2016. What this means is that as of yesterday morning, factory base prices for lamb before bonuses ran from 4.75-4.85/kg, up 20c/kg on this time last year when the base price spread for lamb was from €4.55-4.65/kg. When I put this to ICSA's sheep chairman John Brooks, he replied: "Wouldn't they want to be after last year."

Brooks said that attempts by the factories to ease prices back over the weekend came to nought as both farmers and producer groups dug their heels in on price.

Looking at the price table, both Kepak Athleague and Kildare Chilling continue to be locked at the top of the table on €4.85/kg with Kildare just edging it with their quality assurance bounce of 10c/kg over Kepak's 5c/kg quality bonus. They are followed by the two ICMs and Dawn Ballyhaunis, all of whom also continue to quote their base price from last week of €4.75/kg. All that divides the two ICMs from Dawn is their better bonus payment of 10c/kg versus Dawn's 5c/kg.

Actual prices are in the region of €5.00/hd for lamb but both ICSA and IFA were reporting €5.05/kg as being possible yesterday. Of interest on the numbers side is the fact that a number of plants put off numbers from one day to the next, a trend that I'm told may continue this week. While this isn't new, it generally isn't viewed as good news for the trade generally, but this isn't just any year, no different to the cattle job, sheep factories want all the numbers they can get, hence this week's prices are unaffected by some plants hitting capacity.

Cull ewe prices remain largely unchanged from last week with Kepak Athleague the only plant to change their price, putting it up by 5c/kg to €2.75/kg. Kildare, however, remain top of the ewe price league once you add back their 10c/kg bonus, giving them an overall price of €2.70+10c/kg quality bonus. Dawn Ballyhaunis and the two ICMs remain static at last week's €2.60/kg for ewes.

Looking to the French market Bord Bia reports that supply and demand remain relatively balanced. Trade up until Christmas is expected to remain firm with the best demand being for shoulders and legs. Supplies on the French market are reported as being strong with supermarkets not yet moving to increase lamb promotions.


1 Ennis

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Trade for hoggets improved here with the best price of the day being the €125 paid for 68kgs. Cull ewe prices also moved upwards and ranged from €50-90/hd.

2 Ballinasloe

With the top price for spring lamb running to €117, the overall average worked out at a very nice €84/hd. Stag ewes saw averages settle at €82/hd with the top call being €120/hd. Ewe lambs averaged €99/hd with ewe rams making up to €107/hd.

3 Ballinrobe

Sheep numbers were up on previous weeks here but that did not prevent a full clearance as the effects of improving factory prices filtered down through the sheep business. Store lambs sold from €73-92/hd with ewe lambs making up to 118/hd. Factory lamb sold from €84-112/hd while fat ewes ranged from €75-115/hd.

4 Baltinglass

Trade here was described as "very lively" with heavy lambs and forward stores much in demand. Top price among those heavy lambs went to a batch of 30 wether lambs who sold for €100/hd. Prices for ewe lambs in the 35-55kg bracket ranged from €72-115/hd with the mid section 40-45kg lamb selling from €85-97/hd.

5 Headford

Trade for lamb here saw a top price of €120/hd achieved for a batch of 10 lambs that averaged 50kgs while lighter lamb fell back to €60/hd in places. Cull ewe prices were solid ranging from €85-98/hd. In lamb ewes made up to €155/hd.

6 Kilkenny

Yesterday's sale here saw prices firm to improved. Heavy lambs from 50-56kgs sold from €110-120/hd with lambs from 44-49kgs making from €98-109/hd. Among the lighter store types from 34-38kgs ranged from €71-88/hd. Cull ewes sold from €66-119/hd with that €119 coming for a pair at 113kgs a piece.

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