The latest Bord Bia sheep price dashboard reports that Spanish lamb prices have surged in recent weeks, averaging €8.90/kg for the week of 11 November 2023.

This is almost €1.40/kg ahead of the corresponding period in 2022, while prices have also surpassed French market returns, which are generally top of the main sheep-producing countries.

As detailed in Table 1, French market prices average €8.53/kg, just shy of 40c/kg ahead of the corresponding period in 2022.

Farmgate returns in France have averaged in excess of €8/kg for much of 2023, while there has typically been a differential of 80c/kg to €1/kg between French and Spanish lamb prices.

Reports indicate that supplies of lamb have tightened considerably in Spain and with demand rising ahead of the Christmas trade, prices have increased significantly.

Tradition of light carcases

It should also be pointed out that a tradition in countries such as Spain, Portugal and Italy is the purchase of full light lamb carcase, often ranging from 6kg to 10kg, for Christmas festivities.

It is likely that higher prices paid for light carcase lambs could be positively influencing average prices, given supplies of heavier lambs are reported to be in tighter supply.

There is a differential of 60c/kg between prices in Britain and Northern Ireland. Prices in Britain are also running about 50c/kg ahead of the corresponding period in 2022, while prices in Northern Ireland have increased to a lower level of shy of 30c/kg.

Irish farmgate prices of €6.35/kg are exclusive of VAT of 5%. When VAT is added in, prices are in the region of €6.67/kg.

Prices in Ireland have increased by a lower level than both Britain and Northern Ireland, when compared with 2022, and are running 17c/kg higher.

Contrasting fortunes

While prices in the EU are running above the corresponding period in 2022, prices in the southern hemisphere remain under huge pressure.

Australian prices remain on the floor at the equivalent of €2.90/kg, with prices remaining unchanged for a couple of months.

The challenging trade and poor prices in Australia have had a negative effect on New Zealand sheepmeat exports in recent times. Prices have reduced by in the region of 30c/kg in recent weeks, with Beef and Lamb New Zealand recently reporting that lower-priced Australian lamb was reducing the competitiveness of New Zealand exports and inserting pressure on the trade.