Beef prices will fall ‘if countries ban EU meat over virus outbreak’

EU beef prices may fall from their record highs — along with reduced demand for lamb and pork — if non-EU countries react to the Schmallenberg virus outbreak by banning European meat, Rabobank International has warned.

EU beef prices jumped 20% to €3.92 a kilogramme in the first two months of the year, compared with a year earlier, pork prices gained 11% to €1.57 and lamb rose 10% to €5.93 as animal herds shrunk amid rising feed costs, said analyst Albert Vernooij of Rabobank.

Russia has said it will ban shipments of Europe’s cattle and hogs from Mar 20 because of the infection.

The virus, which causes stillbirths and deformities in offspring, has been found on 908 farms in Germany, 273 in France and 145 in Britain, data shows. If other countries follow suit or Russia expands its ban, the price of meat in Europe will fall, said Vernooij, who correctly forecast rising prices last year. Russia was the leading destination for EU beef and pork in 2011.

“Russia has announced that it may expand the ban, applying it not only to the import of all live cattle, pigs and sheep, but more importantly, to beef, pork and sheepmeat from the whole EU,” Vernooij said. “While the impact of the first ban on meat prices will be limited because live exports of slaughter-ready animals to Russia are already minimal, the possible ban on meat exports would have a negative impact on EU meat prices.”

Gareth Barlow, a producer in North Yorkshire, England, said so far he’s not been affected by the disease.

“The only way to stop it is to find a cure and because of Schmallenberg’s scope, health companies can see good mileage in getting one produced as quickly as possible,” he said.

The disease, first found in Germany in November, is spread by midges and was detected after sheep suffered from neonatal malformations, the European Commission said.

MEP Mairéad McGuinness said the European Food Safety Authority is rapidly collecting data on the virus, adding that early detection has helped limit the spread.

“This virus has been found in sheep, cattle and goats and has to date infected animals in Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands and the UK, so it is far too close for comfort.”


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