Prime sheep prices have firmed across Europe in the New Year.
The UK saw a positive start to the year, with farmgate prime hogg prices 6 per cent ahead of last year in the first full week of trading, or 2 per cent more in euro terms.
A small, roasted lamb was a traditional New Year celebration dish in Southern Europe, and in Italy and Portugal prices have been marginally ahead of last year.
In Spain, heavy lamb prices were up about 18 per cent year-on-year, but have cooled over the post-Christmas trading period, according to Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) data.
“However, while the Spanish heavy lamb price has been particularly firm, prices for Spanish light lamb, which are generally the highest in Europe, are particularly depressed,” said QMS head of economics services Stuart Ashworth.
Following lower production in the final quarter of 2017, French producers were receiving 3 per cent higher than last year. Slaughter numbers were expected to continue to fall as their breeding ewe flock declines.
However, the UK failed to take advantage of this extra demand in November, with Irish and New Zealand imports growing.
“Though, supported by a competitive exchange rate, the UK did see significant growth in exports to other EU countries, particularly Germany and Belgium,” Mr Ashworth added.
In Ireland, prices were up about 5 per cent with slaughter numbers much higher than last year.
New Zealand has seen a 2 per cent rise in its lamb crop, with a record lambing ratio.
Drought at the end of 2017 led to a rush of lambs onto the market in time for Chinese New Year and Easter.
But Mr Ashworth highlighted farmgate lamb prices were up 33 per cent on last year, making lamb significantly less price competitive. Australian farmgate prices were up between 5 and 10 per cent.