Tolerable balance between supply and demand; prices back up through £1 barrier Lamb market returning to traditional pattern Lambs are back up through the £1 barrier on a liveweight basis as the market continues its surprising recovery. Some processors are grumbling about the expense, leading at least a couple to shut slaughter lines or switch to killing other species, but most talk in the wholesale trade is of a tolerable balance between supply and demand. The price increases do not reflect severe shortages. MAFF's most recent slaughter estimates show the national weekly kill down only about 20,000 head, or 6%, from a year ago. The broad picture is of a market regaining its traditional seasonal price pattern and likely to behave predictably for the rest of the year. Current price movements are surprising only because they follow two seasons of nasty shocks for sellers and buyers alike. Over-optimism on the part of producers in 1997 led to a price-crushing avalanche of hoggets in 1998, and a price surge early last year was followed by an unexpected shakeout in the summer. This time round there is no heavy carryover of hoggets, and the national breeding flock probably contracted slightly in 1999. MLC's latest forecast suggests markedly lower first and fourth quarter slaughterings than last year, and no uncomfortable bulge in the middle, meaning "the outlook for this year is one of relative stability". {{MEAT }}