Support our Nation today - please donate here

New analysis paints challenging picture for sheep sector in Wales

30 Jan 2023 3 minute read
Increasing imports, the cost-of-living crisis and the unusually dry summer have all had an impact of sheep markets in Wales

A cocktail of challenges has combined to put pressure on lamb prices, new analysis has found.

Hybu Cig Cymru-Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) has launched a new ‘Between the Lines’ analysis report of lamb supply and the wider factors impacting the market.

Increasing imports, the cost-of-living crisis and its impact on consumers, as well as the after-effects of an unusually dry summer and high input costs, were reflected in volatile farmgate prices in Wales during the first few weeks of 2023.

For the week ending 28 January, the prime lamb average price at auction markets in Wales stood at 227.8p/kg.

This is a decline of 5p on the previous week, however the price remains some 9p above the longer term average.

The report studies in detail how there is a greater carryover of old season lambs into the new year than usual at this time of year.

Dry summer weather held back grass growth, while Russia’s invasion of Ukraine exacerbated high inflation in agricultural inputs.

This meant that lambs were slower than usual to finish during 2022.


Demand has also fallen as consumers tighten their belts, and recently-issued November trade figures showed a rise in sheep meat imports into the UK.

Glesni Phillips, HCC’s Intelligence, Analysis and Business Insight Executive said: “We have seen an increase in imports from New Zealand and this has come at a time when Welsh Lamb supply is itself higher than usual because of delayed finishing times caused by higher feed prices and the summer drought stunting pasture growth.

“We have recorded 1.2m head throughput at UK abattoirs during December 2022, that’s five per cent higher than December 2021 and 7 per cent higher than November last year.

“We can expect to see this higher supply continue into 2023 because there is a larger carry over of old season lambs on the ground than we would usually experience at this time.”

Lambs at market in Wales


She highlighted positive results for HCC’s export work, which saw volumes increasing month-on-month during autumn 2022, but said HCC’s consumer experts were reporting that domestic customers were spending less and feeling the pinch as inflation hit household budgets.

She added: “Although demand over Christmas was good, the January blues and continued cost of living crisis is not helping consumer demand for all kinds of premium proteins into the New Year.”

“There is evidence that consumers are looking to trade down at retail and cut back on eating out so sluggish demand is not unexpected.”

HCC’s Between the Lines Lamb Supply Report also looks ahead to the coming months, analysing a range of data to help farmers assess the potential supply of lambs onto the market for the coming season.

Support our Nation today

For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.

Notify of
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 year ago

Again a great photo of a lamb, (if without a credit to the photographer), it reminded me of why I became a vegetarian. 53 years ago sitting on the verge at the bottom of our lane, thumb out waiting for the bus I engaged a group of lambs in conversation to while away the time. The thought came into my head that the day before I had probably eaten a part of one of their cousins for Sunday dinner…never touched lamb or any other flesh since that day…the old place would not be the same without them and there is… Read more »

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 year ago
Reply to  Mab Meirion

Researchers at Cambridge University put Welsh mountain sheep through a battery of tests and concluded that the animals are actually as intelligent as some monkeys, rodents and humans…

Our Supporters

All information provided to Nation.Cymru will be handled sensitively and within the boundaries of the Data Protection Act 2018.