Cross-industry meeting discusses light lamb prices

Farmers’ representatives and Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) met in Aberystwyth this week to discuss the current market prices for light lambs.

While overall farmgate lamb prices in Wales are currently higher than in 2014 and 2015, lower prices are paid for lambs below 32kg live weight – a situation which is posing a challenge for some hill farmers.

Representatives of NSA (the National Sheep Association), NFU Cymru and FUW met with HCC on Tuesday 1 November to discuss current market trends. A range of factors were explored, including economic difficulties in traditional markets for light lambs in Mediterranean countries, and long-term industry-wide trends towards dealing in cuts rather than whole carcases.

“Light lamb prices are very concerning at the moment given the favourable exchange rate,” said FUW Head of Policy Nick Fenwick. “With uncertainty over what trade deals might be in place post-Brexit, it is important to seek solutions to current and possible future problems for all parts of the sheep sector.”

Wyn Evans, Chairman of NFU Cymru Livestock Board, said: “These current price difficulties in the light lamb sector put in sharp focus the need for all of us involved in the sector to redouble our efforts to build and develop new and existing markets, while also reminding buyers of the availability of great tasting PGI Welsh Lamb in a range of carcase weights.”

“Fewer and fewer lambs fall into the light categories these days – around 15% of the total production in Wales,” said HCC Head of Operations Prys Morgan. “But the price differential is higher than it was; with the price paid often being around 20p less per kilo liveweight than for standard lambs.

“There are a number of long-term factors which make trading conditions difficult for light lambs. Ongoing economic problems in southern Europe have reduced the export demand for this kind of lamb, and the tendency in both overseas and domestic markets towards dealing in cuts rather than whole carcases is also a factor which makes light lambs more costly to process per kilo.

“HCC continues to promote PGI Welsh Lamb in traditional markets for this product such as Italy and Spain, and is also focusing on developing potential new light lamb markets in the Middle East and elsewhere,” said Prys. “We will also work with everyone in the industry to disseminate information on market trends in order to develop new products, and to keep farmers informed about research concerning genetic improvements to the flock to help meet market requirements.”

“NSA Cymru welcomed the opportunity to meet with HCC and other industry representatives to discuss light lamb prices,” said NSA’s Helen Davies. “It became apparent there are a number of factors affecting the trade and we look forward to working with HCC to try to increase consumption of light lamb within the home market and beyond.”