Coronavirus crisis: Sheep price to feel COVID-19 effects

Zach RelphCountryman
Rabobank’s Angus Gidley-Baird has predicted sheep and lamb prices to dwindle this month, as the COVID-19 pandemic disrupts lives worldwide.
Camera IconRabobank’s Angus Gidley-Baird has predicted sheep and lamb prices to dwindle this month, as the COVID-19 pandemic disrupts lives worldwide. Credit: Zach Relph/Countryman

Australian sheep prices will tumble as a “pessimistic global economic outlook” strains the market amid the coronavirus crisis, a respected agricultural analyst says.

Rabobank senior animal protein analyst Angus Gidley-Baird has predicted sheep and lamb prices to dwindle this month, as the COVID-19 pandemic disrupts lives worldwide.

Mr Gidley-Baird noted sheep values had started to decrease last month, with the Eastern States Trade Lamb Indicator peaking at 962¢/kg carcase weight on March 5 before dropping to 941¢/kg cwt on March 19.

Although prices were declining, the sheep market — like the cattle market — was at a historic high as rainfall across drought-stricken farming areas in the Eastern States earlier this year drove demand for sheep and lambs.

However, Mr Gidley-Baird said coronavirus fears, alongside a likely increasing availability of finished lambs, would cause sheep prices to fall.

“Prices for all classes of lamb and sheep have fallen,” he said.

“With continuing disruptions to markets and the pessimistic global economic outlook as a result of COVID-19 ... we expect prices will continue to fall through the month of April.”

Mr Gidley-Baird said restaurant closures, particularly in China and the US, during the coronavirus pandemic would reduce Australia’s sheepmeat exports.

“The combination of lower slaughter numbers and the trade disruptions caused by COVID-19 are starting to show,” he said.

At the Katanning Regional Saleyards last Wednesday, 12,456 sheep and lambs were penned to mark a 9033-head decrease week-on-week.

Prices fluctuated, but remained consistent, with a pen of mutton securing $200 and wethers reaching up to $196/head.

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