Production was up 10% since the turn of the year, said AHDB

UK lamb production has recovered after a “shocking” 2018, with rising volumes bringing prices down from record highs last spring.

Average year-on-year deadweight lamb prices peaked at 601.9p/kg in April 2018 [AHDB]. This followed plunging volumes and soaring mortality rates brought on by the tough spring weather and feed shortages.

Prices were still significantly higher than average at £549.3/kg at the start of last June, exacerbated by an early Easter causing strong demand and lower-than-expected import volumes from New Zealand.

However, an increase in production (up 10% since the turn of the year) had helped lamb stocks to recover, said AHDB lead analyst for red meat Duncan Wyatt.

This helped reduce average year-on-year deadweight prices by about 18% to £452.8/kg at the start of June, Wyatt added, bringing prices back down to five-year averages.

“The benign weather this year, with lots of sun and rain helping grass growth, means a lot of new season lamb has come through early, with some farmers reporting this year’s crop to be up to five weeks ahead of schedule.”

Stocks had been further bolstered by strong demand for mutton, he said, with adult sheep slaughterings up 10% on last year. The increased production figures were also influenced by heavier animals at slaughter, with average weights up from 19.5kg last year to 20.5kg.

Consumer demand was also holding up well, Wyatt said, with volume sales of fresh and frozen lamb up 1% [Kantar 12 w/e 19 May 2019].

The future looked uncertain due to the Brexit impasse, but with increasing demand from China and tighter global supplies, the UK may be able to capitalise on markets further afield, Wyatt said.