What does the rest of the year hold for the sheep sector?

After surging prices in the first half of 2024, the sheep meat sector will be challenged in the second half of the year with falling production and tight budgets impacting consumer demand.

sheep in field

Total sheep meat production is expected to fall by 3% to 278,000 tonnes in 2024, according to the latest AHDB Agri-market Outlook for lamb.

This will be driven by a fall in the lamb crop impacting on slaughter levels of new season lambs. 

Despite a strong start to 2024, retail and foodservice demand for lamb will also remain pressured by consumer budgets.

Consumption is set to fall by 1% compared to 2023.

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Meanwhile, imports have grown in the first quarter of 2024 but are expected to slow for the remainder of the year.

Exports have seen a slight yearly decline in the first quarter of 2024 and are expected to remain in decline given our falling domestic production.

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Under pressure

Isabelle Shohet, AHDB analyst (red meat), said: “As we highlighted in our Outlook earlier this year, the sheep meat sector will continue being put under pressure in the second half of 2024 with consumer budgets remaining tight and an anticipated reduction in retail promotion of lamb.”

Domestic lamb domestic prices may be supported for the remainder of 2024 by an anticipated fall in imports, coupled with further opportunities to export UK lamb to the EU.

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Isabelle added: “We are seeing a drop in prices at the moment due to the supply coming through of new season lambs. 

“We’ve also passed the typical peaks of demand for the year like Easter which added strength to prices. 

“Moving forwards, we are unlikely to see continued strong consumer demand we’ve seen in the first half of the year, and supplies will be higher as the new season lamb crop continues to come forward.”

However, prices will remain elevated compared to recent years, she added.

Read more sheep news.

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