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The highs and lows of lamb prices in 2014

Jan 8 2015

The twelve months of 2014 saw a fluctuating market for lambs in Wales with the expected seasonal variations affecting prices paid to farmers during the year.

It was a promising start, with prices at auction markets well ahead of year earlier levels. This eventually led to averages consistently above 210p/kg during March and April on the back of strong demand.

These improved prices led into the new season lamb period in June, with the Welsh average hovering around 240p/kg at the beginning of the month.

A good lambing season, however, meant that producers were sending their lambs to market earlier than in the previous year. Increased numbers eventually took its toll on the live weight trade at Welsh auction markets with prices falling 20p in the first week of July to 175p/kg.

While a seasonal fall is usually expected in the summer, the price drop in 2014 came sooner than in the previous year.

“This was due to the favourable conditions for rearing lambs and a greater availability of grass during the spring and early summer when compared to 2013,” said Charlie Morris, Industry Information Officer at Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC).

“We saw increased lambing rates, lambs being finished earlier, and more lambs available for slaughter. In total, there was an additional 350,000 lambs slaughtered in the UK between June and November 2014.” 

From July to mid-October, lamb live weight prices were below the levels seen in 2012 and 2013, averaging between 150 and 160p/kg.

Improvements were witnessed by November due to increased demand at home and abroad, with prices reaching around 190p/kg by late December.

HMRC figures revealed that export volumes of sheep-meat from the UK during January to October 2014 had declined by 3.5% compared to the same period in 2013. This was due to the strong pound and weak consumer demand in some European countries.

Statistics published in June suggested that the 2014 UK lamb crop had increased by 3% in comparison to 2013 levels, with the UK breeding flock also increasing by 3%.

Miss Morris added: “Since June, the number of cull ewes that have gone through UK abattoirs has been significantly reduced on 2013, which implies that increased numbers of ewes have been retained this year for breeding.

“The outlook for 2015 suggests an increase in sheep-meat production, and a larger UK breeding flock could lead to an even higher lamb crop. This, however, will be largely influenced by lambing rates and seasonal conditions.

“Lamb prices will again depend on supply and consumer demand. The strength of the pound against the euro will also play a big part as it has such a direct impact on trade conditions.”

HCC will continue to promote and develop the Welsh Lamb PGI brand in established and growing export markets throughout 2015 in order to ensure a consistent demand for the product. These markets will include the Scandinavian countries, Germany, the Netherlands and Canada.

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