Reports from the hogget trade this week point to the emergence of a two-tiered trading system, with specialist finishers and sellers handling very large numbers capitalising on intense demand and securing up to 40c/kg to 50c/kg above quoted prices.

Base quotes in factories are largely unchanged since earlier in the week.

Kildare Chilling continues to lead the quotes table with a base price of €7.20/kg plus the plant’s 10c/kg quality assurance (QA) payment.

This is slightly ahead of Ballon Meats with its all-in quotes of €7.20/kg, while reports indicate that plants not quoting are on similar opening prices.

The two Irish Country Meats plants in Camolin and Navan remain on €7.05/kg plus their 20c/kg QA payment.

However, the two plants have moved to a higher carcase weight payment cut-off of 23.5kg.

There is a reducing number of sheep selling at the base price, with a high percentage of hoggets traded by individual sellers moving from €7.35/kg to €7.50/kg.

Producer groups are trading at a similar price point, with top prices 5c/kg to 10c/kg higher.

This has left some groups infuriated, with some commenting that “artificially low base prices” are eroding any merit of trading through the group.

A number of groups report that they are struggling to retain producers handling very large numbers, with much higher prices being paid.

Reports indicate that specialist finishers and sellers handling very large numbers are securing returns ranging anywhere from €7.60/kg to €7.80/kg.

At a 30c/kg price differential, there is an offset of just shy of €7/head on a 23kg carcase.

Each sales avenue should be considered, taking into account practicalities of trading, fees and, of course, likely sale price.

The tightness in supply is reflected in last week’s kill of just 46,421 head. The kill is 6,911 head lower than the corresponding week in 2023, despite quotes running €1.20/kg to €1.40/kg higher.

Demand will remain solid, with the start of Ramadan advancing quickly on 10 March.

Cull ewe quotes have increased by 20c/kg, ranging from €3.10/kg to €3.20/kg to a high of €3.50/kg to €3.60/kg.

NI and British trade

Factories in Northern Ireland are quoting a base of £6.15/kg to £6.20/kg, which is the equivalent of €7.18/kg to €7.24/kg at an exchange rate of 85.6p to the euro.

A similar differential is emerging to plants in Ireland, with groups and sellers possessing greater negotiating power receiving £6.35/kg (€7.42/kg), while at the top end of the market, prices are rising to £6.50/kg (€7.59/kg).

The AHDB reports average prices in Britain increasing by 28p/kg last week to £6.90/kg (€8.06/kg).

Prices have continued to rise this week and have now exceeded the £7/kg mark (€8.18/kg).