Bord Bia is forecasting the carryover of 2021-born lambs into 2022 to increase by in the region of 50,000 to 60,000 head.

This was reported by Bord Bia sector manager for sheepmeat and livestock Seamus McMenamin at its Meat Market Seminar held virtually on Friday 14 January.

Seamus said: “We do expect an extra 50,000 to 60,000 lambs to be carried into 2022, which should help to stabilise supplies for slaughter. The proportion of ewe lambs which will be slaughtered will have an impact on supplies.

"We see last year lambs maybe marked for keeping or breeding being killed in the run-up to Easter, with such strong prices, so that will also impact supplies.”

NI imports

The level of imports from Northern Ireland is also highlighted as having a key impact on supplies, with the number of lambs or hoggets imported for direct slaughter in 2021 falling by 45,000 head in 2021.

Seamus also highlighted the potential of a higher lamb crop in 2022 going on a 4% increase in the ewe flock recorded by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) last June.

Price prospects

In terms of price prospects, Seamus says the trade in 2022 is expected to hold pretty steady.

“We have seen a drop-off in the quotes in just the last few days, but January tends to be a lower month for sales and export demand, so we expect that to stabilise.

"There is a modest recovery expected in global supplies and there is the potential for some New Zealand product to come back into Europe, so it depends on what volumes that comes in on in terms of its effect on price.”

Seamus says it is also worth producers keeping in mind the strong link between lamb price and religious festivals and on what dates these take place.

Further afield

Looking further afield, Seamus said: “In terms of export prospects in 2022, China will continue to drive global sheepmeat trade.

"We have ongoing opportunities to displace [lower volumes of] UK sheepmeat in the EU market and we have been very successful in doing that in the last few years. The one thing to note is the reduced availability of sheepmeat and how that could impact on consumption at an EU level.”

Progressing access to the Chinese and US markets offers significant opportunities to expand Ireland’s customer profile and bring greater balance to demand for all carcase components.

Seamus also outlined that there needs to be a continued focus on growing the percentage of quality assured lamb produced. This currently stands at 60% and there are more customers enquiring as to the quality assurance status of lamb in the marketplace.