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Lamb meat prices hit record high

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 6/03/2017 Tina Morrison
Lamb shanks with rosemary garnish © Ross Land/Getty Images Lamb shanks with rosemary garnish

A shortage of lamb meat in New Zealand, the world's largest exporter, is pushing up prices, with lamb flaps hitting a record high and prices for many other cuts lifting in export markets.

The price for lamb flaps advanced to US$5.60 per kilogram in February, from US$5.50/kg in January and US$3.45/kg in February last year, according to AgriHQ's monthly sheep & beef report.

That's ahead of the previous record set in January 2014.

New Zealand slaughter rates for lamb so far this season are tracking 13 per cent below the same period a year earlier at 7.17 million lambs, according to NZ Meat Board data.

The New Zealand lamb kill typically runs from December through until early May. AgriHQ noted that poor lamb growth rates through spring and early summer combined with improved grass growth has crimped the number of lambs being sent for slaughter, elevating prices.

"The New Zealand lamb kill has tightened considerably in the past fortnight," AgriHQ analyst Reece Brick said in his report.

"Indications suggest slaughter rates in the short-term will be at record-low levels, especially through the east coast of the North Island. There are now serious concerns that numbers may not emerge later in the season, as was previously anticipated following the slow start to the lamb kill."

Mr Brick noted that meat companies in the North Island had been benefiting from dry conditions, which prompted farmers to send their lambs to slaughter.

However, multiple bouts of significant rainfall had now generated major grass growth and alleviated concern about stock access to water, giving farmers confidence to retain their stock.

In the South Island, slaughter rates were steadier although South Island meat processors had paid more for lambs than North Island processors in February, the first time this had occurred since AgriHQ began collecting South Island prices 14 years ago, he said.

Meat is New Zealand's second-largest commodity export product behind dairy, worth $5.93 billion in the 12 months through January, according to the latest data published by Statistics New Zealand.

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