Farm Ireland

Tuesday 11 December 2018

Factories: Sheep farmers reeling from processors price cuts' blitz

'Hoggets remaining in the system are being clobbered'
'Hoggets remaining in the system are being clobbered'
Martin Coughlan

Martin Coughlan

For the third week in a row factories pulled back their opening bids for spring lamb, this time by 30-40c/kg. Overall quotes for lamb have now fallen by a cumulative figure of between 90-120c/kg in three weeks.

Before getting into the detail of who is offering what, a couple of things struck me yesterday morning as I worked my way through the list of official factory quotes and the lack of meaningful reaction by the farm organisations to yet another bad news week on the sheep front.

Firstly, I am left with the very singular impression that the farm organisations were caught completely off side in relation to this blitzkrieg of price cuts.

Secondly, the electronic tagging controversy - where the financial figures involved were small by comparison - actually had the farm organisations scheduling emergency meetings with the Department.

Meanwhile, hoggets remaining in the system are being clobbered with a 50-60c/kg cut, leaving them back in price between €1.10-1.30/kg in three weeks.

Looking at this week's price table Kildare Chilling top the lamb price league with their quote of €5.90+10c/kg quality bonus.

Kildare is followed by the two ICM plants, both of whom quoted €5.80+10c/kg quality assurance, while Moyvalley Meats, Dawn Ballyhaunis and Kepak Athleague are all on €5.80/kg.

While cull ewes fell by 20c/kg two weeks ago, that was their last significant movement on our price table.

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It means this week's quotes for culls see their quoted price remaining stable at between €2.80-2.90/kg, with Kildare Chilling the top payer on €2.90 plus 10c/kg for the quality assurance bonus.

The IFA report that €6.40-6.50/kg was secured for spring lamb last week, with €6.20/kg securing supplies as the week went on.


Prices for ewes continue to be in the €3.00-3.10/kg range, with the IFA reporting that good quality hoggets were still making up to €5.50/kg at the end of last week.

In the background I detect a belief among farmers that prices will actually recover over the next month. Ann Harkin of Raphoe Mart in Donegal commented that her sale yesterday saw strong confidence being expressed as prices strengthened.

While down in my own county, Waterford, a well known sheep man told me he intended to "gamble what sheep he had for another few weeks" on the basis that the factories had "tried this last year for two weeks" before eventually relenting on price.

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