It seems a long way from the middle of 2018 when lamb prices were hitting highs never seen before.
But although lamb and mutton prices have hit a slippery slide in the last few weeks, all forecasts point to price rises again, and not that far away.
Last week, lamb and sheep prices continued to drop, with the eastern states trade lamb indicator (ESLTI) closing at 633 cents per kilogram carcase weight (cwt) at the end of the week. At time of writing it had fallen another ?? to 619c/kg.
Farmers are having to push good heavy slaughter lambs into saleyards with export abattoirs booked-up with forward contracts and over-the-hook stock, exhausting competition at auctions.
Autumn/winter lamb contracts from Thomas Foods International from April through to June are reported to be sitting around $7.60 to $7.80 for lambs between 18 to 32kg.
Mutton prices across the eastern seaboard have also abated, closing at 368c/kg. This is most likely due to elevated sheep slaughter volumes.
According to the mid-week MLA market report last week, Victorian mutton saw a 10c drop in prices across all Victorian saleyards finishing at 361c/kg.
Elevated Victorian mutton slaughter levels would contribute to this, which have been running at weekly levels 24 per cent higher than the five-year average since the start of 2019.
But South Australian mutton is the cheapest in the nation, dropping 44c to 322c/kg.
Yet according to all forecasts, when the impact of this drought finally hits, supply constraints should mean that the lamb and mutton market will bounce back, and prices will erupt.
All the latest forecasts for the lamb and sheep industry released by MLA and ABARES points to supply simply not being able to match demand. This, coupled with strong export demand and high global prices, will provide processors with incentives to maintain throughput.
Mecardo analyst Angus Brown said mutton is highly likely it will get over 500c in winter.
“We can see that even with strong sheep supply in winter 2018, mutton values averaged over 500c,” Mr Brown said.
“It won’t surprise us to see mutton in excess of 550c with a reasonable season.”
MLA’s Market Intelligence Manager, Scott Tolmie, said a variety of indicators point towards 2019 continuing to be a positive year for sheepmeat prices.
“The conditions that drove strong prices for well-finished stock last year look likely to remain in place in 2019, particularly while conditions remain dry,’’ Mr Tolmie said.
“Fortunately, robust international demand and a low Australian dollar will continue to support Australian exports and, in turn, domestic saleyard prices.”
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