Prime values for cattle, sheep and pigs have been well above those of last year in recent months but the tide appears to be turning with all sectors slowly but surely heading south.

While all remain above those of this time last year, prime lambs have slipped significantly over the past 10 days and are now below the £2 per live kg mark, while finished cattle have been on a slippery slope for the past month.

Latest deadweight values show Scottish steers fell 4.0p per kg to 383.0p, with heifers down 3.2p at 383.9p. Cows also fell 4p to 265.9p, with the only positive move being amongst young bulls which rose 2.1p to 366.3p.

These reductions have come on the back of relatively stable supplies overall too, with steer and young bull numbers in Scotland down 1.1% and 28% respectively, while heifers and cows are up 6.4% and 3.6%

GB cattle prices are back across the board too and for reduced numbers. Strangely, however, heifer numbers are up nationwide by 9.8%, while steers, young bulls and cow supplies are down 2.9%, 8.4% and 1.7%, respectively.

Prime lamb values have dropped 10-12p per live kg on the week over the past 10-days too.

On Monday, some 33,400 lambs were sold throughout GB to average 199.4p per kg which is down a massive 11.8p per kg on the week and for 1.4% fewer with the SQQ slipping by a similar amount to 200.6p for 8.8% fewer.

Tuesday’s prices were similar and again for reduced numbers with 27,192 lambs sold to average 195.2p, which represents an 11.8p reduction on the previous seven days and for almost 8% fewer, with the SQQ at 197.2p, down 10.8p for 13.8% less.

On a more positive note, new markets for lamb could be found in the Middle East when the region saw imports rise 319% between 2018 and 2019, according to AHDB halal sector manager Dr Awal Fuseini, who said there is ‘real potential’ to increase the UK’s market share in the region.

Speaking at an AHDB webinar Dr Fuseini said: “We have seen there is an appetite for UK lamb in the Middle East and we must do more to maximise on the potential opportunities it presents.”

However, he warned that one of the biggest issues faced by UK exporters presently is halal certification, as not all UK-based certification bodies are recognised and accredited.

“It is therefore, vitally important that you choose your certifier wisely as without accreditation, your products will be rejected on arrival.”

Backing up these statements, Adil Khan, from the Department for International Trade in Dubai, said that the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) was the UK’s second largest export market outside Europe – importing more UK products than China and three-times the volumes exported to India.

He also revealed that within the GCC, the United Arab Emirates makes up 40% of UK trade, with sheep meat the most popular red meat, accounting for more than 60% of total red meat consumption.

There is also the hope that more beef can be exported to America following the first exportation of UK beef to the US in more than two decades.

Following the USA’s longstanding ban on EU beef – introduced in the wake of the BSE outbreak in 1996 – market access for UK beef was granted in March 2020, with the first batch heading ‘over the pond’ earlier this week.

So far only four UK food businesses, based in Wales and Northern Ireland, have been officially listed by the US Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety Inspection Service as eligible to export UK beef to the USA.

The first shipment originates from Foyle Food Group, of Foyle Campsie in Northern Ireland, with further shipments from across the UK expected to commence in the coming weeks.

International trade secretary, Liz Truss said there could be a £66m opportunity for UK beef exporters.

“This could be just the tip of the iceberg,” she said.”The free trade deal we are negotiating with the US will create a host of export opportunities for British agriculture. We are seeking an ambitious and high standards agreement that benefits farmers and delivers for consumers.”