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‘The estimated market price for a 120 lb. Alberta market lamb trended above the 5-year average for most of 2020,’ says Jason Wood, provincial livestock market analyst with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry.
In the last quarter of 2020, October to December, the Alberta market lamb price increased 18%. In the first part of 2021, the estimated price for a 120 lb. market lamb averaged $280 per head ($2.33 per lb.), 14% higher than in 2020 and 25% higher than the 5-year average.
Alberta light and heavy auction lamb prices were significantly higher in the fourth quarter compared to recent years. Prices tend to trend lower in the second half of the year, but last year prices were stable through most of the summer and fall, followed by strong gains into yearend.
‘Light and heavy auction lamb prices kept momentum for the start of 2021. During the second half of February, Alberta auction lamb prices did pull back but have surged again in the first half of March. Year-to-date in 2021, light and heavy lambs at auction are averaging upwards of 35% to 47% higher compared to a year ago,’ explains Wood.
Taking a look at lamb and mutton imports shows year-over-year increases for both in 2020. Canadian lamb imports were 19,138 tonnes in 2020, an increase of 7.1% from 2019 and 11.2% higher than the 5-year average. Mutton imports were up 34% year-over-year and over 29% higher than the 5-year average at 4,338 tonnes. Total Canadian lamb and mutton imports were 23,477 tonnes in 2020.
Globally, the pandemic and African Swine Fever (ASF) outbreaks remain 2 key influences in protein trade. China recently announced new ASF outbreaks in hog operations along with the discovery of ASF variants.
‘This has brought additional concern regarding the recovery timeline of Chinese hog inventories and pork production, a key point given that China has become the world’s largest market for lamb and mutton in recent years.’
The International Monetary Fund has forecasted the global economy to grow 5.5% in 2021. ‘As we enter a period of recovery, strong demand mixed with tighter supplies of lamb and mutton is expected to be price supportive. The anticipated return of foodservice demand and growing consumer taste for quality lamb products are positive signs for demand in 2021,' says Wood.
Alberta lamb and sheep farm cash receipts
Annual Alberta lamb and sheep farm cash receipts (FCR) for 2020 were reported at $30.8 million, an increase of 13.5% from 2019. In the fourth quarter of 2020, Alberta sheep and lamb FCR was $9.25 million, the largest fourth quarter value back to 1971.
Lamb and sheep FCR for the fourth quarter of 2020 was 45% higher than in 2019. During the fourth quarter of 2020, the finished lamb market averaged over 30% higher than in 2019, while light and heavy lambs at auction averaged over 60% higher than the fourth quarter of 2019.
Nationally, total Canadian lamb and sheep FCR was $225.3 million in 2020, an increase of 19% over 2019. Over the last 5 years, Alberta has accounted for 14% of national sheep and lamb FCR.
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