Base quotes have increased by an average of 5c/kg on last week and range from €6.05/kg to €6.20/kg.

Regular sellers with stronger negotiating power have seen prices rise by 5c/kg to 10c/kg, giving rise to reports of top prices of €6.40/kg to €6.45/kg.

Factories are reluctant to sanction deals of €6.50/kg, although deals have been reported at this level for big numbers and higher if allowances on transport costs are taken into account.

The lower base quotes are, in most cases, irrelevant to prices being paid, with producer groups criticising these quotes as eroding the group payment mechanism.

This has seen some groups holding out and negotiating a higher base price in recent weeks before willing to move lambs.

A significant percentage of lambs from individual sellers are trading from €6.20/kg to €6.30/kg, while producers with greater selling power but not trading at the top end of the market are securing returns of €6.35/kg.

Producers should also note that some plants have moved to a 22kg paid carcase weight limit across the board, while others are holding tight at 21.5kg.

The difference in price between top and bottom sellers and varying carcase weight limits is leaving a price differential of €5 to €7 per head between some plants and even within plants.

IFA sheep chair Sean Dennehy said: “Farmers should continue to move lambs as they become fit, while selling hard in a positive and strengthening market.

“Most lambs are moving at €6.35 to €6.45/kg, with €6.50/kg and higher paid for larger lots. Weights of 23kg are being talked about and some deals are starting to be done at these levels.”

The ewe trade is largely steady and has firmed in some cases, with prices ranging from €3.00/kg to €3.10/kg for a significant number of ewes traded in small numbers, while top prices are rising to €3.20/kg to €3.30/kg, with Ballon Meats continuing to offer the highest ewe quote.

The trade in the North is also firming, with £5/kg (€5.89/kg at 85p to the euro) now the general base quote. Regular sellers are securing 5p/kg to 10p/kg higher or the equivalent of €6.00/kg. Northern Ireland farmers do not receive the same flat-rate refund that unregistered farmers in the south receive. This presently adds 5.6% on the value of produce, with a quote of €6.40/kg equating to €6.04/kg without the VAT top-up.

Prices in Britain are pushing upwards and this is reflected in the latest AHDB price report for new-season lamb rising 20p/kg to £5.22/kg (€6.14/kg).