Due to a labor shortage in Romania and strong prices for foreign lamb and sheep in other countries, most of the lambs bred in Hargita (Harghita) County are not sold anywhere in Romania but in Italy, Greece and the Arabian Peninsula, Hungarian newspaper Székelyhon reports. According to the experts asked by the newspaper, local breeders do not slaughter the lambs just before Easter, instead keeping them until summer and selling them at a better price.
Hargita County is one of the best places in the country for breeding sheep. However, most of the animals are not sold in the country, as there is an increased demand in foreign countries – mostly Greece, Italy and the Arabian Peninsula – for animals raised under natural conditions. As István Balló, the president of the Association of Hargita County Sheep Breeders told Székelyhon, there are three buying periods in a year, with the first one starting right before Easter. Some animals were already taken from the county, but they have been placed elsewhere to be fattened, so the shipping crisis has not affected them.
During this period, there is no demand for lamb in the Arabian Peninsula, but there are buyers from the Greek and Italian markets. Breeders sell animals to Arab countries starting at the end of June, mostly the larger “steak lambs” weighing at least 25 kilograms, veterinarian Zoltán Bándi, the association’s representative from Székelykeresztúr (Cristuru Secuiesc) told Székelyhon.
The veterinarian also stressed that due to foreign demand and the local labor shortage, sheep farmers in Hargita County have sold few lambs in local markets before Easter this year. According to Bándi, there are no people to milk the sheep, so breeders must keep the lambs next to the sheep and sell them only after mid-summer and autumn, when they are bigger. According to his estimation, only 20–25 percent of the lamb stock is slaughtered in the Easter period, half of them in backyard conditions, while the other half at slaughterhouses. István Balló was of the same opinion; adding that breeders nowadays do not slaughter the lambs at Easter but prefer to keep the animals and sell them later at foreign markets at a better price.
According to Zoltán Bándi, this year, local lamb meat is selling for RON 14/kg (EUR 3/kg) on average on the hoof, and RON 28–30 for oven-ready meat.
Title image: Hargita County is one of the best places in the country for breeding sheep. Photo: magyarmezogazdasag.hu