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UK sheep meat production takes a dive during April

Friday, 15 May 2020

By Rebecca Wright

April was anything but a normal month, not only for the UK, but the whole world. During the month some auction markets were not running, abattoir sickness was above usual levels and consumer behaviour changed. Easter was a very different event from usual, with a lack of family get-togethers. This will have impacted on lamb demand at retail. The lack of foodservice demand throughout the month will also reduce domestic demand. Export market conditions varied sharply throughout the month. All of these factors have influenced not only price, but also production levels.

Production took a sharp decline during April to just 21,000 tonnes cwe, according to Defra. This is 20% (5,100 tonnes) below the same month last year as well as around 1,000 tonnes lower than in March 2020.

During April UK lamb kill declined 21% (227,800 head) year-on-year, to 835,900 head. AHDB had already forecast that lamb kill would be low in the month, however this drop is almost double what was forecast. In part this is likely to be due to the unprecedented circumstances of COVID-19. Up until the end of March the overall total had been in line with forecast levels, albeit with some timing differences. In contrast, ewe kill increased 12% (16,000 head) on-the-year, to 148,300 head.

Carcase weights were back on average during the month compared to April 2019. The tough winter conditions meant this was expected. The warm dry April will have benefited the lambs, although not enough to offset the tough winter. A lack of grass growth would have also impacted finishing.

Rebecca Wright

Analyst - Red Meat

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