THE timing of domestic lamb promotions has been questioned by one of Melbourne leading butchers.
"They (Meat and Livestock Australia) should be cranking up the advertising right now," said Frank Russo, of Rainbow Meats.
Mr Russo's comments coincide with the current glut of lamb and saleyard prices at their lowest rates in more than three years.
They also follow the end, three weeks ago, of the MLA's spring lamb promotions as it launches its summer beef marketing campaign.
The spring campaign attempted to tap into the spring fashion and racing theme to coincide with the traditional peak in lamb supply.
But MLA group marketing manager Andrew Cox said that while he was aware of butcher concerns over the timing of the campaigns, he said domestic lamb sales this year were being affected by several macro issues, including the strength of Australian dollar, reduced household expenditure and increased supply of cheaper chicken and pork.
Mr Cox said it wasn't easy to assess the impact of the recent spring lamb promotions, including the Sam Kekovich Australia Day promotions - although, in its latest annual report, MLA claims this year's Australia Day campaign, with various supermarket promotions, saw weekly lamb sales reach more than $18.5 million - up 32 per cent on average and the highest since MLA began tracking sales data in 2002.
Mr Cox said the Australia Day campaign, like the recent spring campaign, was partly about defending lamb's market share.
He said lamb's next big promotion would again centre around Australia Day.
Mr Cox and Mr Russo conceded the extremely high prices for lamb early last year did a lot of damage to long-term lamb sales, forcing a shift to chicken and pork.
Mr Russo said that at current prices his stores in Camberwell, Caroline Springs, Chadstone and Chirnside Park were achieving steady sales.
In 2011-12, MLA spent $21.2 million on marketing, including $7.7 million on aggressive domestic marketing and $6.2 million on export promotions.
The $21.2 million was drawn from total lamb levy revenue of $28.6 million and $900,000 of reserves.
Lamb research accounted for $7.8 million of the levy revenue.