The sheep trade remains robust despite the ending of Ramadan and repeated suggestions by some factory agents that prices are coming under pressure.

The trade is being underpinned by relatively tight supplies and a firm appetite among plants to maximise throughput.

General prices paid for quality assured (QA) spring lamb range on average from €7.85/kg to €8/kg. Regular sellers and farmers with long-standing supply arrangements for spring lamb are securing a price premium or an additional allowance on weight.

Top prices paid range in general from €8.10/kg to €8.20/kg, with wholesale buyers especially anxious for well-conformed lambs.

Most plants are now paying to 21kg carcase weight, with occasional deals negotiated to 21.5kg, with wholesale buyers again more willing to pass 21kg carcase weight.

As mentioned already, plants have been keen to maximise throughput and this is reflected in last week’s kill increasing by 7,957 head to reach 47,478.

The increase in throughput was driven by purchasing for the Ramadan festival.

Sales of late have been strong, meaning there is no supply reserve available on the European market and this is also fuelling continued demand.

Spring lamb numbers continue to gradually increase, with 27,494 head handled. Reports suggest it is highly unlikely that last week’s hogget throughput of 13,185 head will be repeated.

Hogget prices are variable and this is due primarily to a large variation in quality.

The general run of prices reported ranges from €7.20/kg to €7.40/kg. There are some deals being completed at €7.50/kg for lighter-carcase hoggets, while factories are becoming reluctant to pass €7/kg for heavy-carcase hoggets.

Producers facing challenges in negotiating on price should assess the mart or butcher trade.

Northern factories are also keen to maintain high levels of throughput, with last week’s lamb and hogget kill recorded at 7,033 head.

Throughput for the year to date at 128,119 head is running 16,203 above the corresponding period in 2020 and is in sharp contrast to the kill in the south running over 60,000 head lower.

Northern factory agents are competing strongly with agents purchasing on behalf of southern plants and while base quotes for lambs are in the region of £6.40/kg (€7.41/kg), regular sellers are securing prices of £6.70/kg to £6.80/kg to ward off competition from southern factory agents.