IFA National Sheep Committee Chairman John Lynskey said IFA will meet Meat Industry Ireland (MII) and the lamb processors this week on prices and the need to stabilise the market at this important time for the sector.
He said, “An IFA delegation, led by our President Joe Healy, together with members of the National Sheep Committee will meet the key lamb plant managers this week. Our message will be simple and straightforward: lamb prices need to stabilise so as not to undermine the market at this critical time in the season.”
John Lynskey said the upheaval on lamb price over the last two weeks damaged the market and will severely impact on the incomes of sheep farmers for 2016. “Sheep farming is a very low margin sector and simply cannot afford price hits of up to €15 per head over a short period,” he said.
John Lynskey said prices had stabilised this week and the balance between supply and demand was very tight. He said some plants were looking for spring lambs, while others were short on hoggets. In addition, he said some plants, who were on 20kgs carcase weight had increased weights to 20.5kg for spring lamb.
John Lynskey IFA is proposing the following carcase weight guidelines for 2016: for April and May 21kgs, rising to 21.5kgs from 1st June, 22kgs from mid-July, 22.5kgs from September 1st, 23kgs from mid-October and 23.5kgs from December 1st.
The IFA Sheep Chairman said hoggets were making €5.20 to €5.30/kg with some top prices of €5.40. Spring lambs were making from €5.70 to tops of €5.80/kg paid.
John Lynskey said spring lamb producers and hogget finishers have come through a very difficult spring. Weather conditions have been severe and production and feed costs are significantly higher. In addition, grass growth has been seriously delayed/slow.
He said the difficulties around the changeover from hoggets to spring lamb must be handled in a better way, other than by just slashing prices, by processors and retailers. “A sustainable sheep sector needs the seasonal supply spread provided by strong spring lamb and hogget enterprises. Otherwise the processing sector will become more dependent on imports.”
John Lynskey said supply figures clearly show that a lot of hoggets have already been sold and remaining numbers will be tight. In addition, there will be limited volumes of spring lamb until mid-May, and the usual increase in supply may be later this year due to weather conditions.
An analysis of supplies shows that the lamb kill for last year was up 67,000 head on 2014. To date this year the hogget kill is up 28,000 head. Combined, this points to an additional 95,000 lambs/hoggets killed from the 2015 crop. With no additional ewe numbers in 2015 and Northern imports down, this means that the hoggets are already slaughtered.