Just over 14,000 Northern Irish spring lambs have been slaughtered by sheep processors south of the border over the past two weeks.
According to the Livestock and Meat Commission (LMC), the number of sheep crossing the border for direct slaughter in Republic of Ireland plants remained strong last week.
Last week, Irish sheep processors imported 7,000 Northern Irish new season lambs for slaughter adding to the 7,149 head imported the week before.
Official figures also show that the number of spring lambs imported from the North was up considerably during the month of July compared to the same month last year.
Figures from the LMC show that Irish processors imported just over 25,500 spring lambs from the North in July, up 10,000 head or 65% on July 2015.
Are Northern Irish lambs cheaper?
The increase in Northern Irish sheep crossing the border for slaughter comes on the back of lower spring lamb prices in the North.
According to the LMC, Northern Irish farmers were paid 381.9p/kg (447.60c/kg) for spring lambs during the week ending July 30, while farmers south of the border were paid 384.5p/kg (450.39c/kg).
On a 21kg carcass this is a price difference of almost 60c.
However, during the week ending July 16, the price difference between Irish and Northern Irish lambs stood at 6p/kg (7c/kg). On a similar type lamb this is a price difference of almost €1.50/head
Irish spring lamb prices harden
Spring lamb prices have hardened considerably as factories have struggled to get in numbers following last week’s price drop.
Last week, spring lamb prices declined by 20c/kg with most factories offering 450c/kg for new season lambs.
However, in a bid to meet demand a number of factories are now offering higher base quotes, with most trying to buy lambs between the 460-475c/kg mark.
The ICSA’s Sheep Chair John Brooks said that the spring lamb trade showed some signs of improving last weekend, as factories were paying between 480-490c/kg in order to secure lambs.
Brooks added that factories and butchers are worried about the supply in the coming weeks and he said some are paying up to 500c/kg for the right type of butcher lamb.
The IFA National Sheep Committee Chairman John Lynskey also said that factories are paying 5-10c/kg above the base price in order to secure numbers.