Demand for hoggets is being boosted this week by purchasing for the Ramadan festival, which starts on 22 March and finishes on 20 April.

Quotes for Thursday are up 10c/kg on the week, with this increase occurring at the start of the week.

This has been the trend for the last two weeks, with factories increasing prices to try to entice hoggets forward.

Kildare Chilling continues to set the pace with its base quote of €6.30/kg plus its 10c/kg quality assurance (QA) payment.

The two ICM plants in Camolin and Navan are quoting a base of €6.15/kg plus their higher QA payment of 20c/kg.

Plants not quoting officially are said to be working off a base quote of €6.25/kg.

This leaves a significant percentage of quality assured sheep traded by individual producers with low negotiating power ranging from €6.35/kg to €6.45/kg.

Producers with more negotiating power or trading through groups are securing returns ranging from €6.50/kg to €6.60/kg.

Specialist finishers and regular sellers handling large numbers have seen their hand strengthened, with reports of prices rising to €6.70/kg and even higher for very large consignments of hoggets.

Producers with slaughter-fit sheep on hand should take advantage of the spike in demand.

Kill figures

Last week’s kill of 50,596 sheep increased by about 2,350 on the previous week.

Factories will be hoping that there is a continued increase in throughput in the run-up to Ramadan.

Reports indicate that trading conditions in export markets are slowly improving.

A significant differential had opened up between Irish and British prices in recent weeks, with hoggets trading in the region of £5.05/kg to £5.15/kg (€5.78/kg to €5.89/kg) and this left Irish product at a competitive disadvantage.

British prices are strengthening and at £5.25/kg to £5.30/kg (€6.01/kg to €6.06/kg) midweek and climbing, it improves the negotiating power of Irish exports.

There are also strong indications of supplies of New Zealand sheepmeat starting to fall off significantly.

The trade in Northern Ireland has also moved on, helping to maintain a significant differential over British prices. Base quotes are up 10p/kg to £5.50/kg (€6.29/kg).

Reports indicate prices this week are holding closer to quotes, with top prices reported of £5.60/kg to £5.65/kg.

The strength of the trade is helping factories there limit numbers travelling south, with last week’s kill recorded at 10,046 head, up over 1,400 on the week.

The number of sheep exported south for direct slaughter reduced by a further 260 head to 6,301.

The ewe trade has also firmed, with quotes up 10c/kg. A big differential exists, with quotes ranging from €3.10/kg to €3.40/kg.

Sellers should continue to weigh up carcase weight limits and gauge the live trade to determine the best outlet.