Deliveries of New Zealand lamb were also down in first half of year
Prime lamb prices have followed the seasonal pattern and dipped sharply but returns remain at a similar level to last year.
Quality Meat Scotland said the volume of lambs was building to its seasonal high, with auctions reporting the proportion of heavy prime lambs, more than 45kg liveweight, being higher than last year’s levels.
The levy board’s head of economic services, Stuart Ashworth, said the market could be sensitive to volume and Muslim festivals, the next of which being the end of the Hajj over this weekend (September 1-4).
“Last year, this festival began on September 10 and in the week running up to it prime lamb prices saw a lift of 13p/kg liveweight in the auctions before losing all of this in the following two weeks,” said Mr Ashworth.
The market place will also be influenced by international trade, he said.
New Zealand has been struggling to make full use of its tariff rate quota with the European Union, with deliveries in the first half of 2017 down 21 per cent (25,000 tonnes) on the year.
Mr Ashworth said: “UK trade data shows deliveries of New Zealand lamb down 23 per cent in the first half of the year, although deliveries of fresh chilled product have seen a more modest decline of 17 per cent.
“Meanwhile, Beef and Lamb New Zealand released its estimates of the size of the current New Zealand breeding flock, showing a fall of 0.9 per cent. Nevertheless, because of improved ewe and hogg condition, they are forecasting an increase of 1 per cent in their 2017-2018 lamb crop.
“Having achieved growth in markets closer to the country, it seems unlikely New Zealand will make full use of its European quota for yet another year. Nevertheless, Europe remains a key and high value market for New Zealand exporters.”
UK trade data has indicated significant growth in UK sheepmeat exports this year, ‘undoubtedly’ helped by the continued weakness of sterling and European prime lamb prices currently holding some 3-4 per cent higher than last year, Mr Ashworth added.
In Euro terms the UK lamb price is almost 1 per cent lower than last year, improving competitiveness.