European prime lamb prices have strengthened in the lead up to Christmas, with demand increasing across the continent.
But prices were failing to match last year’s level across Europe, according to Quality Meat Scotland (QMS).
Stuart Ashworth, QMS director of economic services, said: “France and Spain are showing year onyear falls of 4.5 per cent and 11 per cent respectively, while Ireland and GB, when quoted in euros, are little changed on the year.
“Nevertheless, despite producer prices falling in France and Spain, GB prices remain well below these levels, leaving scope for exports.”
And exports continued to maintain their importance to the UK market, at about 30 per cent of production.
Between June and October, UK slaughter statistics suggested a lamb kill almost 5 per cent lower than last year, resulting in the proportion of the estimated lamb crop already slaughtered slightly lower than in 2017.
However, the weekly lamb kill recovered during October to stand at similar levels to last year.
In the Republic of Ireland, lamb slaughterings since mid-year have been higher than last year, while their census showed a lower lamb population in June 2018.
“Looking to New Zealand, competition may be less intense in the current marketing year,” said Mr Ashworth.
“Beef and Lamb New Zealand, in its most recent assessment of the current lamb crop, forecasted a decline of 1.7 per cent in lamb numbers.”
However, carcase weights were expected to be higher.
In Australia, AHDB analyst Amey Brassington reported production, prices and exports were all up on the year.
Drought drove increased lamb and sheep slaughterings in the first half of the year, putting downward pressure on sheep and lamb prices.
A more recent tightening in supply resulted in an accelerated price recovery, reaching record highs in August.
Prices have declined steadily over the past few weeks but were still more than 10 per cent higher than last year.