Who's benefiting from lamb price cuts?
"The job is not getting any better," one factory agent told me this week.
Being a factory man, he understated the situation as official quotes for lamb yesterday slipped another 20-30c/kg.
A great uniformity has descended, as the price table below shows, with all plants quoting €5.00/kg as a base for lamb plus whatever bonuses are available.
Cull ewes have not moved, with €2.70/kg continuing to be the general quote as it has done for the last three weeks.
Absent again from our table this week are Kepak Athleague with enquires on price being politely answered with a "no comment".
Over the weekend the Kepak plant found themselves the focus of a protest that closed off supplies on Sunday and continued on into early this week. Dawn Ballyhaunis also failed to provide quotes.
The IFA has been delving into the figures, looking into who is benefiting from these continuing price cuts. Their conclusion: it's not the housewife.
Sean Dennehy, the IFA sheep chairman, said with lamb prices in supermarkets the same as last year, farmers believe the factories are lining their own pockets at the expense of the consumer and the farmers themselves.
"With some retailers charging €15/kg for loin chops and €14.49/kg for legs, somebody other than the farmer is making a lot of money out of lamb," he said.
"This week factories have cut prices to €5.00-5.10/kg, which is 70-80c/kg or €14 to €17 per lamb down on last year's price."
Looking at the mart trade, we see that those price cuts are being reflected in live prices.
The general consensus is that while lamb is on the floor, the cull ewe trade is flying.
The question is why are cull ewes such hot property?
There are a number of theories; one of the more interesting ones is that because of the pig cull in China, a certain percentage of the Irish cull ewe trade is making its way there. One mart manager reckons the Chinese are more comfortable with lamb than beef.
The feeling on the ground is that lamb prices are back €10-20/hd in the past two weeks.
Reports from the North's Meat and Livestock Commission indicate that good supplies of lambs are still coming forward to meet demand, with lamb throughput continuing to increase as more lambs come fit for slaughter
A total of 9,449 lambs were slaughtered at plants in the North two weeks ago, with a further 5,512 lambs exported to the Republic for direct slaughter.
Exports to the Republic for direct slaughter during the last six weeks totalled 21,438 lambs, back from the 26,110 during the same period in 2018.
A question a lot of farmers here have, however, is whether some of that Northern lamb that comes south is originating in Scotland or northern England?
Dead weight prices in the North for that week averaged £431.1/kg which was up 4.5p/kg on the previous week.
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