Drought conditions have affected production in Australia.
The latest forecast from Australia has confirmed global sheep meat markets were expected to be tight throughout 2019.
Despite an uplift in the lamb kill in quarter one and production increasing, the lamb kill was expected to be down seven per cent overall this year, with production down eight per cent.
Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) said strong prices aside, 2019 had continued to be another ‘extremely challenging’ year for sheep producers, with drought conditions across all key sheep production regions.
These dry conditions had led to slaughter remaining elevated, but a slowdown was expected in the second half of the year as producers look to maintain their core breeding flocks.
A reduced breeding flock and poor lambing rates, combined with a poor weather outlook for winter, was expected to disrupt supply.
Strong demand globally has supported Australian lamb and mutton prices, with exports growing year-on-year. New Zealand also recorded a strong start to the year on exports.
However, MLA said exports simply could not keep pace with global demand as supplies from New Zealand and Australia dry up over winter.
In the EU, the sheepmeat market has been tighter in the first quarter of 2019, according to AHDB.
Last year, declines in UK production were offset by other countries, with a third of this coming from Spain.
But during quarter one, Spanish production was back almost 5,000 tonnes on the year, limiting exports.
AHDB analyst Rebecca Obourne said: “Production could pick up later in the year, but I do not think this is likely. There was a decline in the number of ewes put to the ram on the latest December census.”
Total EU production was back by more than 15,000t, although Easter did fall later this year.
EU imports of sheepmeat from outside the bloc were back almost 14,000t. Ms Obourne said a tighter market was not completely surprising.
“I expected imports from outside the EU to remain subdued throughout 2019,” she added.
“I also think production is also likely to be down, driven by declines in the number of sheep in the EU.”