Farmers have warned that the UK's coronavirus lockdown is having a 'damaging impact' on sheep trade, with prices down by £1 per kg liveweight.
Market disruption caused by the Covid-19 virus is now of 'serious concern' for the sector, the National Sheep Association has warned.
The industry body is particularly concerned about market prices and the knock-on effect this will have to farming communities.
Trade collapsed at the start of this week with prices plummeting by £1 per kilogram liveweight.
"On a 45kg lamb that’s between £40 and £50 a head less, on a value that was maybe just over the £100 mark," NSA chief executive Phil Stocker said.
The main underlying reason is the closure of the restaurant and catering trade, both in the UK and EU, and the heavy reliance of lamb being a ‘fine dining’ product.
Mr Stocker said the sector are also hearing of export loads being cancelled. In the UK, the supply chains that serve the catering trade and the domestic supermarket trade are 'quite different'.
"We made Defra aware of this issue and the reasons behind, and now it’s become apparent that it is having the same, if not worse, impact on the sheep dairy trade with many with a perishable product having no market at all,” he said.
“The one saving grace is that most of our sheep farmers producing lambs for meat are busy lambing at the moment and not selling lambs, although there are still plenty that are.
"For the sheep dairy sector, although relatively small in size, probably every farmer is affected due to them supplying into the chain every day."
The coronavirus situation has also highlighted concerns over any sudden disruption to the sheep sector's export markets after the Brexit transition period.
"While this has all been brought about by Corvid -19 there couldn’t be a starker warning of the impact of sudden disruption to our export markets and it raises the spectre of Brexit and the dangers that lie at the end of this year’s transition period,” Mr Stocker said.