Beef prices at factories have improved, due to tight supply and farmer resistance to recent downward price trends.
With the intake at factories staying well below year earlier levels, processors have conceded an increase of 5 cent/kg (2p/lb) in base quotes for steers and heifers.
The reality however is just a marginal price improvement for most farmers, because the factories have simultaneously tightened the top-up on quoted prices.
Quoted base prices for steers this week range from 400 to 405 cent/kg (143p-145p/lb), with actual prices paid also in that range. Most farmers selling into factories in southern counties are closer to the lower end of the range, while up country, they are at the upper end. Some are doing better — negotiating up to 410 cent/kg.
Heifer prices — quoted and actual — are running at 5 cent/kg over steer prices.
Intake at factories for last week was at about 26,150 head, compared to about 30,500 head in 2011, which underlines the pressure on the factories to maintain intake, in order to meet market requirements.
Supplies for this week remain tight, and should end up near last week's intake, but processors will be very anxious to keep the brakes on upward price movement.
The trade for cows at the factories remains very firm, with base prices for O/P grades ranging from 330 to 350 cent/kg (118p-125p/lb). The quality R grade cows are making up to 365 cent/kg (130p/lb), with no overall change in the trade from recent weeks, and strong demand for the better quality cows — some of which are selling for up to €800 over €1/kg at the marts, due to exceptional demand for these continental breed
The beef trade in the UK remained solid over the past week, with some promotional activity boosting demand levels. All parts of the carcase are reportedly trading well. Cattle prices have firmed, with R4L grade steers averaging equivalent to 431 cent/kg (154p/lb).
On the Continent, the trade was steady last week.
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