Exceptionally good spring weather, combined with the clear stabilisation of the UK breeding flock confirmed by the December Agricultural Census, means the national lamb crop is expected to be even higher than forecast earlier in the year, suggests the mid-season market outlook from EBLEX, the industry body for beef and lamb levy payers.
At the same time, relatively high retail prices, low import levels and the acute economic stresses experienced by many households are likely to mean growing pressure on UK lamb consumption.
Despite the domestic situation, the UK’s strong position in the global sheepmeat market means that robust demand is likely to be sustained for the rest of the season and into 2012. This underlines the influence of both high export demand and low import availability on the domestic market.
Lower production in New Zealand meant total import volumes from January to May were nearly 20% down on 2010. Overall, UK lamb imports in 2011 are forecast to be well back on last year and only just over three quarters the level of 2009.
Restricted supplies from New Zealand, as well as Ireland, seem certain to leave the main European markets particularly tight throughout 2011, which bodes well for UK exports over the key autumn and early winter period.
While New Zealand lamb is expected to remain in relatively short supply into 2012, latest figures indicate a recovery in both national lamb numbers and carcase weights, suggesting an increased availability of supplies for export to the EU and UK from next year.
An increase in imports to 2010 levels, combined with a modest expansion in the UK breeding flock anticipated from higher ewe lamb retentions, will clearly influence medium-term market prospects. However, as ever, the future supply and demand balance will depend to a great extent on increasingly uncertain global climatic conditions.
UK Sheepmeat Market Figures (tonnes)
* Including processed sheepmeat products
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