The indifferent start to the Scottish sheep sale season has left the sector in dire need of a confidence booster.
Prices paid for hill lambs passing through the auction ring have shown a marginal improvement on last year but given the significant increase in cost burden carried by sheep farmers, margins are likely to be poorer than those seen in the FMD-affected 2007 season.
For those prime lambs entering the food chain, the prices paid at auction or at the abattoir to farmers are also falling well short of requirements to cover the cost of production.
NFU Scotland Vice-President Nigel Miller said:
“We await the June census figures with baited breath. The suspicion is that another chunk of Scotland’s sheep flock will have disappeared as the economics of keeping sheep drive more and more producers to reduce their ewe numbers.
“The mid- to long range forecast for sheep production should set alarm bells ringing for the supermarkets. Some key competitors – New Zealand, Ireland and France – are experiencing a similar decline in sheep production.
“That must be seen as an opportunity but we need Government and other parts of the sheep supply chain to wake up now. There is potential for Scotland to help fill the demand for sheepmeat. However, ignoring the current plight felt by those producing lambs will only perpetuate the downward spiral in the Scottish sheep flock.
“For hills and uplands, we need a package of measures that will address the dramatic reduction in the numbers of hill sheep being kept and make the keeping of ewes in these parts an attractive proposition once again. As a Union, we are working on that and will present our thoughts to Government and industry in early September.
“For those finishing lambs, we need others in the retail sector to match the commitment shown by the supermarket chain Morrisons to sourcing home-produced lamb. Supermarkets who choose to dip in and out of imported product to save a few pennies undermine the confidence of those who finish sheep in this country and who deserve a better service from UK retailers.”
Focus on Ballylinney Flock of Lleyn Sheep
SAC Highlights Farming's Retreat from the Hills
Suffolk Sheep Sale Success Over-Rides BTV Zones