Export delays from port disruption compound problems for lamb producers

The British lamb export market is being disrupted by delays at Calais, AHDB Beef & Lamb said.  Picture Scott Merrylees SM1002/77f
The British lamb export market is being disrupted by delays at Calais, AHDB Beef & Lamb said. Picture Scott Merrylees SM1002/77f
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The problems at Calais are delaying shipments of British lamb to France, the product’s biggest export market, compounding what is already a challenging time for sheep farmers.

French trade disruption is adding to the problems facing the British lamb industry as a result of poor consumer demand and the pound’s continuing strength against the euro, industry group AHDB Beef & Lamb said.

Lamb prices recently reached their lowest level since early 2013 and their lowest at this time of year for six years, 30 pence per kilogram below levels seen at the same time last year.

And so far, lamb retail prices have not followed the downward trend in farm gate prices. Figures released this week by AHDB Beef & Lamb show that in July producers received 42 per cent of the final retail price, compared with 50 per cent the previous month and 49 per cent in July 2014. This is the lowest share of the retail price received by farmers at this time of year for seven years.

Stuart Roberts, chairman of AHDB Beef & Lamb, said: “We continue to see a fairly unique set of circumstances, most of which are beyond our control. It is quite unprecedented. Normally, prices peak in the spring at the start of the new season, but this year they have been falling since Easter.

“The exchange rate is not helping as lamb prices historically are closely linked to the Euro because of the amount we export to the EU. On average, a 1p fall in the value of the euro means a drop of about £1 in the value of a lamb.

“We also have issues with the export trade being disrupted by the situation in France. The problems at Calais are delaying shipments to the French market, which takes around half of UK lamb exports.

“This, together with depressed consumer demand in the Eurozone, all has an impact on our farm gate price.”