New Zealand (NZ) and Australian lamb prices have continued to climb, with the NZ price having risen for 14 consecutive weeks to the end of July.
Comparisons with the average price in the UK also show an unusual differential.
AHDB red meat analyst Rebecca Oborne said New Zealand and Australian prices reached record-breaking highs recently – and showed little sign of stopping.
There has been no week-on-week decline since the middle of February and, in the most recent week for data, the New Zealand North Island lamb price reportedly reached £4.26 per kg deadweight (dw).
Due to the GB dw lamb SQQ slipping during recent weeks, the New Zealand price in sterling terms was about 8p per kg below ours in the week ending July 28.
“Until last autumn, it was unusual for the premium of GB to NZ prices to be less than 50p per kg,” said Ms Oborne.
“Typically, prices trend upwards in New Zealand at this time of year. This year, the price started high and strengthened at a much faster rate than is typical.”
In Australia, which is seeing its worst drought in living memory, prices stood at £4.55 (798 Australian cents) per kg dw in the week ending July 26, setting a new record high.
Unusually, for the most recent week of comparable data in GB and Australia, the Australian price was marginally over 30p ahead of the GB price.
With price levels of a commodity tending to affect consumer demand, Ms Oborne said sheep meat prices in the Antipodes could already be reaching a level where some consumers might have to consider it a treat and buy less.
For cattle producers in Australia, persistent drought was once again having an impact, not least in driving increased slaughterings, particularly female animals.
Worries over future fodder supplies saw an 11 per cent (300,000 head) increase in overall slaughterings in the first five months, prompting Meat and Livestock Australia to update its 2018 industry projections.
Beef production was forecast to increase 7 per cent to 2.3 million tonnes and this, despite a reduction in average weights on account of the lighter cow and heifer carcases.
Fortunately, with Australia a large exporter of beef, a weak Australian dollar was assisting exporter, with exports forecast to increase by 10 per cent.