US imported lamb prices remain strong
04 April 2018
Historically high imported lamb prices continue to find support in Australia’s largest market.
US domestic supply and demand
Easter marks a peak demand period for lamb in the US, reflected in the seasonal increase in slaughter during March and April. For the week ending March 17, US lamb slaughter was an estimated 42,000 head, up 21% since early February. Steiner Consulting Group anticipates slaughter levels in the June quarter to be steady to 1% lower than in 2017, albeit carcase weights are expected to rise by a similar amount.
In terms of prices, the average cutout value for US domestic lamb in February was $3.70/lb, 9.4% higher than year ago levels. Lower prices for competing proteins may be a drag on prices in the near future. However, lamb prices continue to benefit from higher fed beef values. Throughout the next quarter, prices are expected to remain higher than the five-year average but trade below 2017 levels.
Despite a strong start to the year, total US lamb imports through to March 23 are down almost 3% compared to 2017, primarily due to a fall in Australian imports. Over the same period, New Zealand imports have risen notably, reflecting increased slaughter in late 2017 and early 2018. Steiner Consulting Group predicts this trend to reverse during April and May, as New Zealand slaughter falls.
A positive sign for producers, prices for all imported lamb products remain well above year-ago levels. For the week ending March 19 the price of chilled Australian lamb racks (cap off) was $9.84/lb, 15% higher than year ago levels.
Read the US Sheepmeat snapshot for more information on the opportunities and challenges for the industry.
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