Skin market upturn is a bonus for processors and retailers Recovery in demand for sheepskins helps explain the unexpected buoyancy of the live lamb market, in effect subsidising the autumn finishing of stock for supply to supermarkets at prices tolerable in the highly competitive food retail climate. The skin trade revival means the sheep processing industry has regained at least some of the revenue loss partly responsible for the lamb market collapse of 1998. Economic and political turmoil in Russia two years ago was blamed for a crisis in the Turkish garment industry and UK sheepskin suppliers were among the casualties. Skins bought here for about £7 each were suddenly worthless, and the lamb price dropped accordingly ­ although farmers tended to blame British supermarkets. Until recently most traders seemed resigned to a skin value of only £1 or perhaps £2, but suddenly they are reporting the market back above £5. At this level the price can have a meaningful effect on returns to sheep producers, and appears already to be helping support the live lamb market. New season lambs were averaging nearly 20% above the September 1999 price immediately before the petrol protests disrupted the market. This differential contrasted with the slight decline year on year in the lamb retail price reported by MLC. {{MEAT }}

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