Throughout 2012 a higher demand from both the domestic and export markets were evenly matched with supplies particularly during the peak periods of hogget and new season lamb supply.
When compared with the highs of 2011, this year's average price of €4.78/kg is marginally back by 9c/kg on last year.
However, in an overall context, Irish sheep prices have performed consistently well throughout 2012 and are well above 2009 and 2010 prices.
However these price gains have been negated as production costs continue to spiral upwards with the price of meal reaching record highs.
Current estimates indicate that for the second successive year the national sheep flock will increase by 4-5% to a total of 5.15 million.
In line with the renewed confidence in the sector it is expected that the breeding flock will increase by 6% to over 2.6 million head.
Sheep slaughtering for the year to date are up 8%, or 120,000 head to total of 1.54 million.
Much of this gain was achieved in the first four months of the year when hogget supplies peaked at 330,000 head, equivalent to a 25% increase or an additional 67,000 head on 2011.
The reduction in the number of ewe and ram slaughterings reflects the growing confidence in the sector as efforts continue to focus on the rebuilding of the breeding flock.
Total lamb slaughterings are up 5%, equivalent to 57,000 head.
The vast majority of this increase in lamb throughput occurred from mid-July when the weekly kill exceeded the 55,000 threshold, well above previous years.
This year has not been without its challenges and, with one of the wettest summers on record, average carcase weights for July and August were back by over half a kilo on the corresponding period for 2011.
Similar to Ireland, the weather has delayed finishing of the new season's lamb crop. Slaughterings to date are back 2% on last year, equivalent to a reduction of 110,000 head.
Carcase weights have been heavier throughout 2012, but this increase has been offset by the lower number of animals slaughtered. At 100,000 tonnes, the amount of lamb produced was up 1% on the previous year.
There is strong belief that slaughterings will pick up in the coming weeks as British farmers will aim to offload their lambs ahead of the winter.
With 60% of British lamb exports destined for the French market, any significant lift in British supplies will have some effect on suppressing prices.
With a total of 2.05 million, French lamb slaughterings for the first six months declined by 3% on year earlier levels. Taking into account the 4% fall in the breeding flock last November, sheep production has fallen by almost 2%.
French imports of sheep meat for January to June were down 6% on 2011 levels. This was largely driven by a reduction in British and New Zealand imports which were down 10% and 26% respectively.
After a number of difficult years, the New Zealand lamb sector is showing signs of recovery. The number of lambs slaughtered in the first six months of the year reached 12.8million, an increase of 5% on the previous year.
Despite the increase in production, total exports to Europe for the first seven months of the year were back 17% on the previous year.
Asian markets, and China in particular, continue to take an increasing proportion of New Zealand product. In volume terms, China has become New Zealand's largest individual country market, even overtaking Britain, as trade was up 58% on 2011.
Source: Argentine Beef Packers S.A.
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