SHEEP markets have been buoyed by the Easter trade and the delay to Brexit over the past few weeks, according to Quality Meat Scotland (QMS).
Market prices and throughputs dipped following the completion of Easter buying, in line with seasonal trends.
But the start of the Islamic period of Ramadan might also offer some support to demand and prices, beginning in early May.
Despite this strengthening, producer prices remained 10-15 per cent lower than last year. New season lambs were trading at about a 40p/kg premium over hoggs liveweight.
Although trade data was not yet available for March, UK sheepmeat exports did see increased shipments during February and provisional indications from New Zealand showed they shipped less lamb to the UK and Europe in the run-up to Easter.
QMS said these trade patterns collectively pointed towards a tighter-supplied domestic market and rising prices.
Stuart Ashworth, QMS director of economics services, said: “Lamb imports play an important part in maintaining consumer interest in lamb at this time of year.”
He highlighted Kantar Worldpanel data which showed lamb purchases could double in the four-week period up to Easter and leg demand could increase fiveor six-fold.
“The reality is even if all the UK fresh lamb legs produced in the fortnight before Easter were all sold in the UK and none were exported, there would still be a shortfall against demand,” he said.
Carcase balance was key, trying to meet the demand for leg roasts with the challenge of cuts not demanded by UK consumers.
He said: “Access to international markets is key to achieving return on the whole carcase.”
He added non-tariff barriers and costs were also a consideration, but the Brexit delay had temporarily removed these for UK exporters.