Lamb prices have exceeded the €7/kg mark in earnest this week with prices running at record levels for the time of year.

Prices jumped by 20c/kg to 30c/kg over a week, with prices jumping on three separate occasions.

The latest lift in the trade leaves prices ranging from €6.90/kg to €7.30/kg with the majority of producers trading above €7/kg.

Regular sellers, specialist finishers and producer groups are securing returns of €7.15/kg to €7.30/kg at the higher end of the market.

Lamb sales values are now running €33 to €37 per head higher on a lamb delivering a 22kg carcase when compared to the corresponding period in 2020.

The latest surge in prices has been fuelled by insatiable demand in export markets.

This is being driven by a void in the market caused by lower volumes of New Zealand sheepmeat entering the EU and Britain and also by a sharp reduction in throughput in Britain.

A scarcity of freight containers which are costing five times above normal levels, challenges in securing space on cargo ships and New Zealand sheepmeat prices running at €5.80/kg (€1.80/kg higher) curtailed the volume of sheepmeat being apportioned to the EU market.

Demand in China and the US has also stepped up and it is more lucrative and straightforward to supply these markets.

The lower New Zealand imports is occurring against a backdrop of a 10% fall in British sheep production with the sheep throughput running in the region of 1m head lower for the year-to-date. Irish and Northern Ireland processors are capitalising on this market opportunity and filling some of the shortfall created with numbers here also relatively tight despite the record trade.