Lamb prices go through the roof

29 Mar, 2009 01:00 AM
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Lamb markets across the country have risen sharply this week, with prices now tracking about 100 cents a kilogram higher than were seen this time last year.

The question now is: how high will prices get during winter months and will lamb again price itself out of the retail market in its usual feast to famine trend?

Across the major markets early this week, Meat and Livestock Australia market information was reporting prices for medium to heavy trade lambs commonly trading between 440 to 480 cents.

This time last year prices for the same lambs were hovering about 350 cents before supply and demand forced a steep climb over the winter months to well above 500 cents at times.

As an export processor, Southern Meats at Goulburn, NSW is finding supply a concern and managing director Neville Newton is not only worried by the lack of lambs on feed but where lamb will be at retail over winter.

“We have had strong export demand thanks to the currency but it will be a very difficult time right through until spring because supply is so low," Mr Newton said.

"Once prices hit 500 cents, it makes it hard for us to make money so we will have our usual winter shutdown.

"Good domestic works will keep going as usual but with extreme prices, lamb will lose shelf space because it becomes too dear for the family budget and beef is there alongside it and a lot cheaper.”

Across Dubbo, Bendigo and the South Australian Livestock Exchange, prices made strong gains this week.

The biggest sale to start this week was at Dubbo, NSW where 25,400 lambs were yarded, 5400 more than were yarded last week.

This did not prevent trade lambs reaching between $70 and $100 a head with heavy lambs to 450 to 485 cents per kilogram topping at $135 per head.

Further south, the Bendigo market yarded 20,000 – a 3000 head fall from last week's.

The market hit a seasonal record with heavy lambs topping the sale at $152 as very strong competition saw trade lambs sell for between $85 and $115 or 455 to 480 cents per kg.

In South Australia the supply of lambs increased by 6000 at Dublin to 23,000 and prices did not disappoint producers.

MLA reported the sale saw heavy trade lambs sell for $92 to $100 or about 436 cents per kg.

Lighter trade lambs sold for $83 to $98 while heavy lambs made between $121 and $133 at 455 cents.

In Naracoorte the market was a little cheaper but heavy lambs still sold to a top of $136.

Mr Newton said the weather had the lamb industry beaten at the moment.

“People just can’t get a decent autumn or spring. We can only hope that this changes.”

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