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Farming

‘Perfect storm’ hits lamb prices

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Lacklustre trade drives down prime prices.

Lacklustre trade drives down prime prices.

THERE are many factors contributing to the depressed lamb price seen in recent weeks, says the National Sheep Association (NSA), meaning a change to any of these could see some relief for the sheep sector as its heads towards peak production.
Phil Stocker, NSA Chief Executive, says: “There are several factors contributing to the current situation: The strength of the pound; the economic situation on the continent; an increased New Zealand offering on our supermarket shelves; farmers in some regions lambing earlier in 2015, assisted by dry weather allowing them to sell new season lamb sooner; and a larger carry-over of old season lambs from 2014. While this has created an unfortunate ‘perfect storm’ to push the lamb price down, it also means that the sheep sector should not lose heart, as it would only take one or two factors to change for there to be an uplift in the price.”
Looking at the number of old season lambs (hoggs) still to come forward when many lamb producers are gearing up to supply new season lambs, NSA urges farmers not to hang onto last year’s stock unnecessarily.
He says: “NSA encourages producers to get old season lambs fit and into the food chain as soon as they are ready and meet market specifications. This will make way for new season stock coming through, as although the price for these is disappointing, it is being held back further by the carry-over of hoggs. We understand that too many overweight old season lambs have been coming through (48kg+), which undoubtedly depresses the market, so the message for the sheep sector is to get lambs fit (not fat) and get them away.”
The lacklustre trade is hard for lamb producers to swallow when the price 12 months ago was particularly good, but the strong trade last year is presumably fresh in the mind of supermarket buyers as indicators point towards them stocking up with cheaper New Zealand lamb to off-set demand for UK product.
Mr Stocker continues: “We know that plenty of New Zealand lamb is available at the moment, as the drought there is causing lambs to be sold earlier than usual, but this will not last and is not appropriate for UK retailers at a time of year when domestic production is gearing up. NSA believes it is short-sighted for supermarkets to try and avoid paying for premium UK product, as in the long-term it threatens the viability of sheep farms and the future supply of domestic product.
Supermarkets have a responsibility to stock and promote UK lamb, or risk irreversibly damaging their supply base. This is an incredibly frustrating time for sheep farmers, but the sector should remain positive as the factors currently combining to depress trade are not permanent in nature. Some of these factors are outside all of our control but others, such as stimulating demand by increasing export market, is something the sector is working on. And one thing that is always within farmers’ control is on-farm efficiencies. Producing lamb in as cost-effective a manner as possible is crucial, regardless of what happens beyond the farm gate.”

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Farming

NSA Lambing List closes

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AS A much-valued service to its members, the National Sheep Association’s (NSA) Lambing List provides farmers with a place to advertise for much-needed lambing assistance from students and others seeking work experience each year.


The list annually provides an annual matchmaking service for around 400 farmers and veterinary and agriculture students. And despite a second lambing season under the constraints of Covid-19 restrictions the list has once again successfully helped farmers across the UK at this busy time of year.


The list has now closed and will reopen for advertisements for the 2021/2022 lambing season in the Autumn.
 NSA Communications Officer Katie James says: “The popularity of the NSA Lambing List grows each year.
“The guidance it provides to farmers using it and the links it offers students means it is incredibly valued by all parties involved. For most, the past two lambing seasons have taken place during Covid-19 restrictions meaning potential shortages of staff due to travel constraints or illness from the virus itself and additional measures to consider such as separate accommodation for temporary staff and social distancing.


“All at NSA are therefore pleased that the list has been able to help remove some of these concerns and provide a trusted method of securing extra help for its sheep farming members.”


 In a previous survey of NSA members using the list, more than 90% of respondents said they valued the list and would use it again to try and source additional lambing help from veterinary and agriculture students.


 Students who will be looking for work experience to assist their application to university or as part of ongoing veterinary studies are encouraged to consult the list from November 2021 when it becomes available once again to aid the student/farmer matchmaking.

NSA members will be able to add details of their available placements for their next lambing season from October.

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Farming

MPs urge level playing field

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IN its new report—Seafood and Meat Exports to the EU—the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee expresses urgent concerns for exporters of highly time-sensitive fresh and live seafood and meat shipments to the EU, particularly small and medium-sized businesses.
Despite overcoming initial “teething problems” the new barriers small seafood and meat export businesses face could render them unviable, and factories and jobs may relocate to the EU.
The Committee’s report, therefore, calls on the Government to ease burdens, including:

• as a matter of priority, seeking agreement with the EU on digitising the certification of paperwork such as Export Health Certificates
• taking a flexible approach to the compensation fund for seafood exporters—including reconsidering the cap of £100,000 on individual payments, and providing similar support to meat exporters
• providing the same help to small meat and seafood businesses with the costs of extra red tape for exports to the EU as they can receive for moving goods to Northern Ireland
• establishing a ring-fenced fund to help create new distribution hubs, which allow smaller consignments to be grouped into a single lorry load, so reducing transport costs.

The Committee criticises the fact that controls on EU seafood and meat imports will not commence until 1 October 2021, with checks at the border only commencing from 1 January 2022.
This has placed British businesses at a competitive disadvantage and reduced the incentive on the European Commission to negotiate measures that would lessen the burdens facing British producers.
The report finds that adhering to the revised timetable will be ‘crucial’, to ensure food safety and to create a regulatory level playing field.
Neil Parish MP, Chair of the EFRA Select Committee, said: “British businesses have acted with incredible agility and perseverance to adapt to the new processes for exporting meat and seafood to the EU.
“With the many checks causing delays and costs, this hasn’t been easy. We are concerned that in the absence of equivalent checks for imports from the EU to Great Britain, there will be serious long-term repercussions for our producers.
“As it stands, the playing field is not even, and the Government must ensure that the new timetable to introduce import checks is adhered to.
“Even as “teething problems” are sorted, serious barriers remain for British exporters, and it is now imperative that the Government take steps to reduce these.
“It must be pragmatic in seeking an agreement with the EU to reduce the red tape that harms both sides, and in the meantime, crack on with giving practical support to small British businesses to sell their produce abroad.
“By the end of the year, the Government must have developed a digital system for certifying EHCs for imports from the EU, enabling it to then negotiate a reciprocal arrangement.”

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Farming

Cattle prices exceed averages – and expectations

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BEEF cattle prices in England and Wales have hit the milestone of £4 per kilo, making this average the highest on record in a number of years.

The average deadweight price for steers for the week ending 24 April was 401.4p per kg which is 83p higher than this time last year and 67p above the five-year average.

Market prices at present are being influenced by a number of unique factors, including strong UK domestic retail demand, a lack of supply due to stockpiling in late-2020 ahead of the Brexit deadline, and changes in trade patterns caused by both Brexit and the Covid pandemic.

Whilst the impact of these factors on demand for beef in 2021 is unpredictable, newly released data from the British Cattle Movement Service (BCMS) suggests that no radical shift is likely in the supply of animals over the coming months.

During 2020, total calf registrations in GB were up marginally (0.5%) on 2019. In Wales, the figures show an increase of 1.4% in beef calf registrations, whilst dairy calf numbers increased by 3.2% on the year. For 2021 so far, beef calf registrations are currently trending 1.1% below last year.

Glesni Phillips is a Data Analyst at Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC). She said: “As we approach the peak calving period for spring calving herds in Wales, it is expected that BCMS monthly registration figures will increase over the coming months.

“However, the suckler cow herd in the UK has been retracting in recent years and currently, it shows no signs of re-building quickly. Prime heifer slaughterings during 2020 and the first quarter of this year, for instance, are higher than recent historic levels.

“These figures would suggest that supply onto the domestic UK market will likely remain tight for some time. Domestic retail figures for beef are strong, and with barbeque season coming up we should continue to see good demand  for good quality, locally produced beef.”

A more detailed analysis of the BCMS calf registrations data is available in HCC’s latest Market Bulletin on the HCC website.

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