Reports indicate factory agents have been active over the weekend to ensure this week’s throughput is not overly limited by the day’s less processing.

Demand is building ahead of next week’s ending of the Ramadan festival.

This is occurring against a backdrop of tight supplies, with hogget throughput continuing to fall off sharply and spring lambs not coming on stream in numbers capable of compensating for fewer hoggets.

Reports towards the end of last week also pointed to a steadying in demand in key export markets.

All of these factors combined have inserted a solid floor under the trade.

Price variation

There is quite a bit of variation in price, with this especially true of hoggets.

General prices range from €7.20/kg to €7.35/kg, but specialist finishers and agents who have provided large numbers in recent months are securing 10c/kg to 15c/kg higher and more in cases.

Quality is also having a big influence on price, with a higher percentage of tail-end supplies coming on to the market.

The general run of prices for spring lambs range from €7.65/kg to €7.80/kg.

Producers with long-term supply arrangements, those handling significant numbers and others supplying through producers groups are pushing returns to €7.90/kg, with infrequent reports of €8/kg being paid.

Carcase weight

Producers should also note there has been some movement in carcase weight in the last week.

The two Irish Country Meats plants have increased their official carcase weight limit by 0.5kg to 20.5kg, while Ballon Meats is in the market for carcases suiting the wholesale and butcher trade and are paying to 21kg carcase weight.

Variable ewe quotes

There is significant variation in ewe quotes, with base prices ranging from €3.00/kg to €3.30/kg, while prices at the top of the market range from €3.40/kg to €3.60/kg.

Some plants are also more interested in ewes weighing in the region of 35kg to 36kg carcase weight and are offering 15c/kg to 20c/kg above prices on offer for heavier carcase ewes.

Producers should be mindful of these facts and also note that while mart prices have eased back somewhat in recent weeks, it remains a good alternative outlet for those struggling to negotiate on price.

Northern trade

The northern trade appears to have steadied, with plants there not getting it all their own way in bringing prices back.

Hogget prices range in the main from £5.70/kg to £5.90/kg, with regular sellers still securing returns of £6/kg or higher.

Factories which last week dropped spring lamb quotes by 40p/kg to 60p/kg to £6/kg are also being forced to pay more to close deals.

Prices reported range anywhere from £6.10/kg to £6.30/kg.