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Lamb prices in freefall due to restaurant closures

By Alistair Whitfield

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The closure of restaurants has seen the price of lamb almost halve within days.

Thainstone Mart in Inverurie.
Thainstone Mart in Inverurie.

With the direct and indirect impacts of coronavirus growing daily, the National Sheep Association says it is seriously concerned about the impact seen on the sheep trade.

The NSA's chief executive Phil Stocker said: "We can only start from a position of absolute respect and commitment to the measures put in place to reduce the spread of the Covid-19 virus.

"It is the number one priority that the health of society is protected at this time.

"However, the result is proving highly damaging for many businesses, and industries, and the sheep farming sector is now amongst these."

The NSA is growing more worried by the day about market prices and the knock-on effect this will have to farming communities.

Mr Stocker said: "Trade collapsed at the start of this week with prices down by £1 per kg liveweight – on a 45kg lamb that’s between £40 and £50 a head less, on a value that was maybe just over the £100 mark.

"The main underlying reason is the closure of the restaurant/catering trade, both here and in the EU, and the heavy reliance we have on lamb being a ‘fine dining’ product.

"We are hearing of export loads now being cancelled – and here at home, the supply chains that serve the catering trade and the domestic supermarket trade are quite different.

"We made Defra aware of this issue and the reasons behind it last Saturday morning, and now it’s become apparent that it is having the same, if not worse, impact on the sheep dairy trade with many with a perishable product having no market at all.”

The NSA is concerned about the impact a shift like this will have on the sheep sector.

Mr Stocker said: "The one saving grace is that most of our sheep farmers producing lambs for meat are busy lambing at the moment and not selling lambs, although there are still plenty that are.

"For the sheep dairy sector, although relatively small in size, probably every farmer is affected due to them supplying into the chain every day.

"While this has all been brought about by Corvid-19 there couldn’t be a starker warning of the impact of sudden disruption to our export markets, and it raises the spectre of Brexit and the dangers that lie at the end of this year’s transition period."

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