The market facts for the UK lamb market are laid bare and go a long way to informing farmers about the challenges that exist for sheep farmers in Ireland and the UK.
A 20% shift downwards in UK lamb consumption over four years, coupled with an 8% to 9% shift upwards in production may mean there is a big market swing.
A mix of Brexit adjustment and increasing global demand fuelled by African swine fever in China saw lamb prices shift upwards by close to 30%. However a 70-80c/kg reduction means the market has adjusted price very quickly, while farm production costs have increased substantially and not yet abated.
This sheep meat market forecast for the UK will have direct consequences for UK sheep producers. But let’s not kid ourselves, as there will be negative knock-on impacts on Irish trade. There will be more UK sheepmeat in the European market, and the UK won’t want to take in any additional Irish lamb.
The market reality for lamb is that it is playing second or third fiddle to chicken and pork and when the squeeze is on the consumer’s pocket, the lamb gets dropped in favour of more flexible protein such as chicken or pork.
So while the UK has left the EU, its impact on supply and demand from Ireland is and will be felt for a long time yet.
The case for supporting a difficult to operate and labour intensive sheep sector is getting stronger and stronger.
Coming back to a piece we wrote three weeks ago, it all points to a system of not putting ewes in lamb, but claiming whatever environmental payments are available.