Sheep sector proves its resilience
Sheep prices remain ahead of the five-year average despite the impact of the severe winter and summer drought, writes Declan Fennell
Irish sheep meat exports for the first half of 2018 have performed well with a 4pc increase in value. For the period January to June, a total of €149 million or some 24,204 tonnes were exported.
In quarter one, Irish sheep meat export volumes were almost on par to 2017 levels at 16,397t. The early Easter this year falling on April 1 would have contributed to the drive in exports in the first quarter.
However the extreme weather conditions of spring 2018 had an impact on lamb thrive and peak supplies of new spring season lamb did not materialise till mid/late summer.
This saw Irish sheep meat exports slip in quarter two (mainly in May/June period), culminating in an 8pc reduction in exports for the first six months of the year.
With increased throughputs of new season lamb during the month of August - and the expectation that weekly throughput figures will maintain the current levels of supply for the remainder of the year (circa 65,000 head) - export volumes for the third and fourth quarter will return to growth.
Notwithstanding the higher input costs which were incurred due to the spring and summer extremes, farm gate price returns have performed well.
At €5.33/kg, average sheep prices (January - mid-September) were some 30c/kg above the five-year average of €5.03kg and some 42c/kg above 2017 levels which stood at €4.91/kg.
The table provides some interesting insights on sheep supplies and farm gate returns for January to April.