An abundance of early spring grass which continued throughout the summer has increased prime lamb supplies in recent months, with the result being, ex-farm values are well below those of this time last year.

Latest figures from Quality Meat Scotland, point to the live trade being a good 10p per kg down on 2018 values, with the deadweight prices down almost 30p per kg.

Prime lamb values have also been down on the year throughout much of Europe, with prices in Germany, Spain, France and the Netherlands, some 5% lower, while in Ireland, sheep farmers have fared slightly better, being down just over 2%.

According to Stuart Ashworth, director of economic services at QMS, slaughter data shows that during June and July, UK abattoirs slaughtered nearly 5% more lambs and that carcase weights were higher, compared with last year. This in turn has significantly increased the volume of domestic sheepmeat available and as a result put pressure prices.

However, while lamb numbers have continued to rise into August, total slaughter numbers are now similar to those of last year, rather than being well ahead.

And, while they remain down on the year, they are better than they could have been when the Muslim festival of Eid al Adha helped to shift large numbers last month, and bolster trade.

The fall in the value of sterling in response to concerns that a no deal Brexit is increasingly likely, has also helped trade, Mr Ashworth said.

“Over the past month, the sterling exchange rate with the Euro has gone from around 89p to one Euro in Mid-July to 92p per Euro in mid-August. It has been weaker than a year ago since late May. Thus, currently an unchanged Euro price would realise just over 3% more sterling value.”

The weak sterling and a lack of interest from New Zealand in the European market has helped the UK increase its exports of sheepmeat to Europe over the past quarter with strong growth to Germany but also increased deliveries to France, Belgium and the Netherlands.

There has also been some positive news on the home market with latest Kantar Worldpanel retail sales data showing some growth in the volume of fresh and chilled lamb bought by UK consumers in recent months compared to last year. According to Mr Ashworth, this may be associated with the very different weather conditions this year compared to last, although there has been some reduction in retail prices.

“Despite the growth in exports, a modest increase in retail sales has provided some short-term positivity, which has perhaps also helped support short keep store lamb prices at the early sales,” concluded Mr Ashworth.