Shortage of lamb for Easter trade

NZ Farmers Weekly, Alan Williams

Meat processors are likely to have a shortfall in chilled lamb shipped to Europe and the United Kingdom to meet valuable Easter trade contracts.

It wouldn’t be a big shortfall but meant processors would have to meet the extra freight costs if they made up the volumes by air freight, Silver Fern Farms chief executive Dean Hamilton said.

Product had to be loaded on boats by the end of next week for Easter shipping and two short working weeks because of public holidays added to the pressure.

Schedule prices had picked up as processors worked to get the throughput numbers, Hamilton said.

There had been a big focus on the drought problems for farmers in Hawke’s Bay and lamb processing had continued at lighter weights than usual.

A lot of lambs were also being sold as stores as pasture and water supply dried up because they could not be fattened to a finishing weight.

Contributing largely to the Easter supply struggle was the slower season in the big sheep farming areas in the south of the South Island because of too much rain slowing grass growth.

Southland was very wet but once there was sunshine lambs would quickly get going, he said.

With high lambing percentages as well, the South Island season would be a longer one this year.

There had been talk that Silver Fern was planning to stand down the second chain at Takapau because of the Hawke’s Bay drought impact but Hamilton said that was not the case.

The plant’s third chain would be put off in mid-February, as it was most years.

Takapau plant’s water reservoirs were lower than usual but operations weren’t affected.

“It’s a tough year for farmers and a lot of lambs are being sold as stores, some to other farms in Hawke’s Bay, some to more western areas of the North Island and some are coming to the South Island.”

There would be an impact on the kill later in the season but the detail wouldn’t be known till then.

Silver Fern had plants nationwide and expected to process its share of the lambs moved out of Hawke’s Bay.