Deadweight lamb prices have “soared” by more than 20% in the last nine weeks as a tightening of supply to market plays a “significant part”.

This is according to the Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales’ (HCC) market bulletin, which also observed that consumer demand has increased due to religious festivals.

Nine consecutive weekly price rises have carried the current deadweight standard quality quotation (SQQ) average for lambs across Great Britain to almost £7.90/kg.

This is an increase of £1.74 since the first week of 2024.

The latest figure, for the week ending March 16, exceeded the highest price recorded last year of around £7.43/kg in May and is notably higher than historical averages by some 50%, HCC said.

HCC’s intelligence, analysis and business insight executive, Glesni Phillips, said a tightening of supply and seasonal religious festivals, where lamb is traditionally eaten, have contributed to the escalating prices.

“Peak consumption of lamb is usually seen during religious festivals, and this year both Easter and Ramadan – the Islamic festival which drives demand for proteins such as chicken and lamb- occur in March,” she said.

“These events, coupled with both the UK and Welsh sheep breeding flocks being in decline, mean the supply of lambs coming on to the market at the moment is tight when compared to year-earlier levels and current demand levels.”

Lamb market

Phillips said throughput data from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) for the May 2023-February 2024 period indicated that a total of 10.2million lambs have been processed in the UK so far this year.

This is similar to year-earlier levels, despite the June survey revealing the lamb crop was 6% smaller than year-earlier levels.

“This does indicate that there are a limited number of lambs remaining on the ground,” she said.

Trade patterns have also provided some encouragement to the domestic market, with HCC estimates of HMRC data revealing that sheep meat exports from Wales were strong in 2023 – up 10% in value terms to total £190.9 million.

“This suggests that, despite minimal economic growth across World markets due to inflation levels, there continues to be demand for lamb in our export countries,” Phillips said.

“Looking further ahead, there are more key festival dates in 2024; the festival of Qurbani- ‘the festival of feast’- for instance, is set to occur during mid-June and the Welsh Sustainable Farming Scheme proposals could also put further pressure on numbers.”