COLUMN: Lamb, mutton prices stay firm

Rob KellyCountryman

Processor lamb and mutton prices remained firm last week.

WA Meat Marketing Co-operative meat grids were updated, adding to the support of the current crossbred and Merino lamb prices.

WAMMCO’s mutton price of $4.40 is now the highest public bid in the WA market.

We do not expect these prices to change significantly during the next week, unless there is another sharp drop in east coast saleyard volumes.

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The mutton market is the market that appears to be getting the most upside from recent supply impacts of rain on the east coast.

Ignoring the fact that the Meat and Livestock Australia over-the-hook mutton indicators have been unchanged in WA since October, they have reflected the recent strength seen in the east coast markets.

South Australia’s mutton indicator has jumped $0.50 a kilogram since March and New South Wales’ mutton indicator has jumped by $0.98 a kilogram.

East coast direct prices for mutton remained unchanged last week but were still significantly higher than previous weeks.

Lamb prices have continued to show strength too, with the highest prices remaining unchanged, but more buyers are starting to converge on these prices causing the average to creep up each week.

East coast cattle markets have also started to bounce back during the past few weeks.

After a long period where feedlot and processor prices were trending lower, we are now starting to see prices shift back the other way.

Lastly, by the end of March, MLA figures showed WA sheep and lamb processor throughput was down almost 10 per cent compared with the same time last year.

Since 2010, there have only been two other years that have been below these levels, in 2017 and 2012.

Red meat processing is a high-volume, low-margin industry.

The lower volumes combined with the current high prices for livestock have been putting increasing pressure on the industry nationally, particularly the smaller processors.

Other talking points in the market over the last week:

  • Market analysis company Mecardo has released a weekly market update podcast, available through iTunes and Spotify, that gives a 15-minute overview of grain and livestock markets. It is well worth listening to as you drive around the paddock.

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