Lamb prices have continued to creep higher despite the coronavirus panic ratcheting up a few more notches around the world.
Ballarat maintained its mantle as Australia's red-hot sheep selling when the new $380 national record price for lambs set at the yards a few weeks back was equalled on Tuesday by a consignment of 122 lambs from Mick Frawley, B.J. Frawley and Sons, Bungaree.
And Dean district producers, Brian and Danny Maher, trading as Precision Production, who scored a price of $378 at Ballarat last week, went one dollar better at this week's sale.
Market pundits are wondering when this golden run will end but coronavirus doesn't seem to be weighing on the export market - for now, anyway.
Sheepmeat exports to China, the original source of coronavirus, were softer in February but other hungry world markets stepped in to pick up the slack.
Restocker lamb prices have taken a small hit despite more useful rain across the key sheep states of NSW and Victoria.
The Eastern States Restocker Lamb Indicator has shed 7 cents in the past week to finish on $10.60c a kilogram dressed on Tuesday.
The Eastern States Trade Lamb Indicator was sitting on 966c, up 13c in the past week.
The Eastern States Mutton Indicator rose 12c on Tuesday to 719c.
Supply remains the key issue, particularly for processors, for the run into winter.
Lamb slaughter in the eastern states dropped by 6 per cent last week to 315,174 including a 13pc drop in both NSW (85,152) and South Australia (45,458).
However Victoria's lamb slaughter climbed 1pc to 179,283.
Mutton slaughterings rose by 7pc in Victoria to 46,347 but slumped by 18pc in SA to 9066 and by 4pc in NSW to 39,307.
In its March 2020 Insights Update the Adelaide-based Rural Bank said sheep slaughter could decline by 40-45pc before the end of winter as producers stepped up flock rebuilding in response to confidence-boosting rain.
The bank said the ongoing spread of coronavirus was unlikely to dampen sky-high lamb and mutton sheep prices despite the disease's impact on spending by Chinese consumers on premium proteins.
Prices in Western Australia would continue to track at a discount to eastern markets due to the relatively poorer season, however values were expected to move higher in response to the trend in eastern markets.
The bank predicted mutton prices would push further into record territory because of reduced supply and extreme demand.
Mutton prices were now on par with trade lamb values from 12 months ago.
Matt Dalgleish, an analyst with Mecardo, said despite lower lamb and mutton flows to China the total export volumes for February remained above the five-year average trend for this time in the year.
He said anecdotal reports out of China from wool industry and export trade insiders suggested factories were trying to crank up again and supply chains were starting to function normally.
Zoe Macfarlan, from AuctionsPlus, said keen restockers in NSW and Victoria had been using the online buying platform to snap up sheep from as far away as Western Australia.
Sales so far this week have been a mixed bag with heavy Suffolk cross lambs topping at $348 at the South Australian Stock Exchange at Dublin on Tuesday.
However, the overall lamb price trend has been cheaper at both Forbes and Dubbo.
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