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Ooh la-lamb. French prices remain strong

14 December 2020

French lamb prices are extremely strong. In the week ending 29 November, the French reference price for deadweight heavy lambs reported to the EU Commission was £6.42/kg. This is 76p higher than a year ago and over £1 higher than the five-year average for the time of year, writes Duncan Wyatt, AHDB Lead Analyst - Red Meat.

Unlike the UK, France exports very little lamb and typically imports about half of its needs. French sheep meat production in the year to September has been 63,700 tonnes, 1% less than at the same point in 2019. France is the single most important export market for UK lamb, as the destination for around 40% of our exported sheep meat, predominantly in the form of whole or half carcases.

This year, however, French imports of UK sheep meat have fallen by 14%. UK production has been lower, but also, much like the UK, the French foodservice market has been thrown into turmoil by COVID-19. Retail demand in France is also reported to be lower, by 6% in the year to October. This figure also tallies with the calculated drop in supplies available for consumption based on production and trade. Imports of Spanish (-22%) and New Zealand (-28%) product have declined too, with only Ireland increasing shipments in the year to date (+15%).

So, with domestic demand lower, it is a reportedly tight supply side that appears to be behind the high prices in France at the moment. Prices in France would be expected to rise further if no trade deal is agreed between the EU and the UK, as imports from the UK would then face a substantial tariff. UK prices would be expected to fall. In this circumstance, some New Zealand product may well be diverted away from the UK and into the EU.

For now, however, it is likely that these prices are lending some strength to store and finished prices in the UK.


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