UK lamb exports were flat in December and January compared with the same period in 2005/2006, with availability, the strength of sterling against the euro and falling consumption of lamb in France all blamed.

Meat processing business Dunbia said it had just five orders in December, compared with 28 in December 2005. "UK lamb exports at the end of 2006 were not as strong as they were for the same period in 2005," said Wyn Williams, procurement manager. "We saw a lot of New Zealand lamb creeping into France and Spanish lamb made inroads to Italy, Greece and Portugal - countries that favour the smaller 8-13kg lambs it produces."

However MLC UK export manager Jean-Pierre Garnier added: "Spain stole the march on us - its lambs came through earlier than expected. But we're beginning to claw back some of the market."

UK lamb prices stood at 108.34p/kg liveweight for the week ending February 2 compared with 103.51p/kg liveweight for the same period in 2006.