Sheep factories across Northern Ireland have moved to slash lamb quotes by over £0.60/kg this week.
The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) has described the action as a “step too far”.
Sheep factories Northern Ireland
Its beef and lamb chair, Pat McKay, said:
“Last week, the average lamb price was £5.31/kg, and to drop it to £4.80/kg seems very unreasonable.”
“We were expecting the lamb trade to remain strong as the Eid Festival is due to start in mid-July.”
“The number of lambs sent for slaughter in Northern Ireland (NI) processing factories is higher for this season. Live exports to the Republic of Ireland (ROI) are significantly lower.”
Fewer ROI agents operating
“Over the last few weeks, there have been fewer ROI agents visiting our local markets, which is concerning.”
“Especially when the NI lamb price is well behind what is being given in ROI, which is €6.40/kg (£5.50/kg). Meanwhile, the Great Britain price was £5.87/kg last week. Our local farmers are at a serious disadvantage.”
The group urges farmers to “sell hard” in the live ring and when trading directly with processors.
“Lamb prices have been stronger this season, although the cost of production has increased greatly. This has been most visible for fuel, feed and fertiliser.”
The farm group plans to meet sheep processors over the coming weeks to discuss current sheep prices.
Sheep prices in the ROI
Meanwhile, IFA sheep chairman, Sean Dennehy, said demand for lamb is expected to improve over the coming weeks.
Buying for the Eid Festival in mid-July is “starting in earnest”. Following this, he added, breeding sales and store buying will increase competition for lambs.
“€6.40/kg is paid in most factories today, with some deals to €6.50/kg despite ongoing attempts by factories to reduce prices further,” he said.
Dennehy said factories must stand firm in the marketplace. He pointed out that Irish lamb, as it stands, is competitively priced to compete in the market. Therefore, he added, there is no need or justification for further price cuts.
He said lamb supplies weekly remain below last year’s levels. “Orderly marketing will deprive factories of the opportunity for further price cuts.”
He added that supplies of suitable lambs are limited. Average carcase weights to date this year are 0.5kg lighter than last year.
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