The sheep trade has reached heights that many thought would not be possible, with prices increasing by 20c/kg to 30c/kg on last week’s levels.
Spring lamb prices have surpassed the €8/kg mark, while hoggets are trading from €7.50/kg to €7.70/kg.
What makes the most recent price increase stand out so much is the fact it is occurring in the aftermath of the Easter trade, when there would normally be an overhang of supplies in the market and depressed demand.
There are a number of factors driving the further upward surge in price. The greatest of these is factories working to satisfy orders for the Ramadan festival, which starts on Tuesday 13 April and finishes on 12 May.
This is occurring against a backdrop of tight supplies across Europe and early reports pointing to strong sales of sheepmeat for the Easter trade depleting any buffer in supplies.
Hogget supplies have tightened and reports also point to a reduction in the number of ewe hoggets coming on stream, with some producers drafting off any sheep they were not happy with and now possessing more confidence to hold those remaining until autumn breeding sales.
Along with prices of €7.50/kg to €7.70/kg, some deals also cover transport costs or in rare cases there is an extra 0.5kg to 1kg being added to the carcase weight to secure sales. This is typically occurring with wholesale buyers.
While hoggets continue to make up the largest part of the kill, factories are keen to get their hands on whatever supplies they can and, as such, are also active for spring lambs.
Kildare Chilling is the main mover, with its base of €8.00/kg plus 10c/kg QA up 30c/kg on last week.
The trade in the North is experiencing similar performance. Hoggets are trading from £6.30/kg to £6.50/kg or the equivalent of €7.29/kg to €7.52/kg at Wednesday afternoon’s slightly weaker exchange rate of 86.2p to the euro.
Meanwhile, spring lambs are trading from £6.70/kg to £6.90/kg (€7.75/kg to €7.99/kg), with select deals hitting £7.00/kg (€8.10).
The ewe trade is solid, but a big variation exists between the factory and mart trade for heavy fleshed ewes.
Factory quotes range from €3.00/kg to €3.30/kg, with top prices ranging from €3.30/kg to €3.50/kg.
Factories are keen for lighter carcase ewes, with some plants quoting 20c/kg higher for ewes weighing less than 35kg.
Sellers should also take note of upper paid carcase weight limits of 40kg to 45kg. At a price of €3.40/kg, this puts the maximum value at €136 to €153.