New season lamb prices are up 35-45p per live kg on the year at some markets, with ewes showing an increase of £5-£6 as a result of the Islamic festival Eid-al-Adha and the opening up of retail sector.

On Monday, lambs averaged 222.5p per live kg through Scottish Auction Marts and on Tuesday that average increased further to 232p.

Sales for the next couple of weeks are expected to remain firm on the run up to the festival too, which this year will be held between July 30, and run until August 3, although the exact dates are based upon sightings of the moon at the time.

Eid-al-Adha begins around 70 days after the end of Ramadan. As part of the festival every Muslim follows in the footsteps of the Prophet Abraham and has an animal slaughtered as an offering to God. The meat, called the Qurbani, is spilt into three portions – one for the person buying, one for friends and neighbours, and one for charity. Processors typically begin sourcing animals two or three weeks before the festival.

However, to meet the requirements of Qurbani, the sacrificed lamb must be at least six months old and be fit, healthy and lean. The timing this year means lambs must have been born before January 30. As a result, there has been increased demand for lambs meeting these specifications.

Demand throughout the festival is elevated for all halal meat (including beef and lamb), which can support prices overall.

The opening up of restaurants and hotels is also helping to support prices. Add to that a population that is ‘holidaying’ in the UK and an increasing number of people trying out more red meat recipes during lockdown, and prices are expected to remain firm for most of the summer.

While the Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in more people cooking from home in the UK, the European Commission’s short-term outlook for agricultural markets, points to sheep meat production falling year-on-year by 1.5%.

Production was previously forecast to be stable, with the expected fall due to the drop in foodservice demand caused by Covid-19 lockdown measures, as well as lower consumption during Easter and Ramadan celebrations.

The Commission forecasts that EU27 sheep meat exports will ease to be 2% above 2019 levels, due to expected tighter domestic supplies. Imports are now forecast to be down 5%, due to tighter availability in key supplier countries to include the UK, Australia and New Zealand.

Covid-19 has also accelerated the anticipated fall in domestic consumption, which is now forecast to fall by nearly 3% year-on-year.