The last seven days have turned out to be extremely challenging for the sheep sector.

Quotes were pulled by 15c/kg to 30c/kg over the weekend and this has been followed by a further 30c/kg cut in base quotes for Thursday.

This leaves plants quoting a base lamb price of €7.50/kg for Thursday and represents a fall of 70c/kg in Kildare Chilling and 45c/kg in ICM on last week’s quotes.

When bonus payments are factored into account, this leaves sellers trading through groups or with significant numbers on hands selling from €7.70/kg to a top of €7.85/kg, with individual sellers with lower negotiating power being offered a price of €7.60/kg to €7.65/kg on average.

IFA sheep chair Kevin Comiskey said: “There is no justification for the severity of these unacceptable lamb price cuts.

“Factories must stand firm in the market place and ensure prices returned to sheep farmers reflect the increased costs we have had to endure this year. Demand for sheepmeat is strong and will increase as the Eid al-Adha festival approaches in early July.”

Processors cite a major correction in lamb prices in key export markets and the availability of competitively priced lamb as being the main factors responsible for the price pull.

They are hopeful of some stability entering the trade as we edge closer to Eid al-Adha, which takes place from 9 to 13 July.

Last week’s throughput increased by 5,018 head to reach 52,237 following a bank holiday-related dip in the previous week.

This is in line with the corresponding week in 2021, although there are still differences in the kill profile.

Lamb throughput of 42,598 head is running 3,338 lower year on year. There is still a significant number of hoggets in the kill, with throughput of 3,770 head running 2,310 higher year on year, with total throughput of 887,785 head up 193,664 on 2021 levels.

Factories have also moved to significantly reduce hogget quotes.

Base quotes are in the region of €6.20/kg to €6.50/kg, with prices anywhere between this level and €7.00/kg, depending on the relationship between producer and processor.

The firm appetite for ewes is reflected in the ewe and ram kill of 6,864 head.

In contrast to lambs, the trade is solid, with base quotes continuing from €4.00/kg and upwards.

Farmers trading ewes are receiving 10c/kg to 20c/kg higher returns depending on their negotiating power and numbers on offer, while, at the top end of the market, prices of €4.20/kg to €4.40/kg have been reported for large consignments of ewes.

Trade outlook

Factories in Northern Ireland are also trying to ease prices, with base quotes of £6.30/kg (€7.30/kg) down 45p/kg on the week, with regular sellers trading 10p/kg to 15p/kg higher. The number of sheep exported for direct slaughter in southern plants was similar last week at 4,551 head.

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