Premium lamb supplier Hillside Meat Processors has experienced a slight downturn in output, citing a lack of “air freight space” for its high-end red meat product because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Output at its Narrogin processing facility, which has a 15,000 sheep per week slaughter capacity, has been indirectly hit by the coronavirus crisis, the Livestock Shipping Services-owned company confirmed. It did not reveal how much slaughter had declined. Hillside specialises in lamb carcass products for domestic and international customers, which includes air freighting chilled meat to the Middle East. With COVID-19 affecting exports globally, Hillside managing director Ahmad Ghosheh said it was difficult to secure space on flights for its products. “As an essential service we are aware of our important role in supplying food, and as such we are constantly reviewing our procedures in accordance with these recommendations,” he said. “Our processing numbers have been affected due to shortage of air freight space availability. “We are working with our freight partners to ensure that the premium chilled lamb is getting to our customers in the Middle East, along with maintaining a consistent supply to our domestic customers in WA.” Separately, Mecardo analyst Angus Brown assured consumers farmers would maintain its steady supply of lambs throughout the winter following stock hitting the market this spring. Mr Brown said he was confident sheep producers had the flock numbers needed to match domestic consumption. “To the question at hand: will there be enough lamb to satisfy domestic consumption for the winter?, the answer is, yes, there will be plenty,” he said. Australia’s forecast lamb slaughter for 2020, depicted in the graphic, is flagged to decline to 21 million head. Mr Brown pointed out the black line marked how many lambs were required to cover domestic needs from last year. “Even if domestic demand increases with more home cooking happening, Australian farmers have plenty of lambs to supply domestic needs,” he said. Australia’s lamb slaughter was at 2.85 million head in January marking an 8 per cent fall, while sheep numbers were at 932,000 head — up 13 per cent. The latest Eastern States’ weekly slaughter numbers show lamb slaughter has fallen 14 per cent for the first four weeks of March year-on-year. Compared to 2019, sheep slaughter is down a staggering 43 per cent and is below the five-year average.