Eastern Australian lamb prices have started to fluctuate and were generally weak in early trade this week, saleyard data reveals.
Processors and producers have become very cautious over where the coronavirus threat could take the industry each week.
There was also feedback from buyers that export competition is still robust with international sales solid from all the usual overseas companies.
Manpower at abattoirs, freezer space and access to shipping containers remains some of the biggest problems for processors trying to fill export orders.
Some meatworks are operating at two-thirds capacity as a way to manage staff shortages and meat storages.
In opening markets on Monday, demand was noticeably weaker at all markets.
Prices in central Victoria at Bendigo were quoted as significantly cheaper for export lambs, with some companies absent or operating selectively.
Heavy lambs suffered a price correction of $15-$25 a head.
Bidding did become erratic, leading rates to dip to a low of $200 before recovering to a high of $276 to average 770-839 cents a kilogram carcase weight.
It was more of the same across trade lamb categories.
Good quality trade types also copped the brunt of the cheaper market with rates falling $25.
Lambs weighing between 21-24 kilograms sold from $171-$206 and averaged 816c/kg cwt.
The bulk of the 7500 sheep sold to erratic bidding with only a few buyers following the market.
Crossbred ewes and Merinos showing reasonable size and weight were $35-$53 cheaper.
Heavy mutton sold from $121-$190 to average 490-533c/kg cwt.
Trade seep made from $79-$168, averaging 520-653c/kg cwt.
The fluctuating prices were not only a trend in Victoria, with prices further north at Corowa in southern NSW reported as cheaper across all categories
Trade lamb quality was excellent and despite this rates slipped $15-$28.
Lambs weighing 21-24kg sold at $156-$210 and averaged out between 812-840c/kg cwt.
Heavy lamb prices also took a decent fall, losing $24-$30 to average 764-799c/kg cwt.
At the close of selling on Monday night, heavy lambs were listed at 832c/kg cwt.
This was down 36c/kg, while trade weight lambs were at 830c/kg, deteriorating 36c/kg.
Merino lambs were quoted at 766c/kg, but remained steady as mutton slipped 19c/kg to sit at 580c/kg.
The Ballarat lamb market on Tuesday managed to hold its nerve with rates finishing the day a few dollars either side of firm.
Trade lambs sold at $180-$209, while heavy lambs topped at $284 to average 849c/kg cwt.
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