Beef prices under pressure

BEEF prices came under pressure at the factories this week as the increase in supply eased the demand for cattle and the processors reverted to profit-taking.

All factories have reduced prices for both steers and heifers by between 3c/kg and 6c/kg reducing the returns by up to €20/head for producers – because they increased the supply of cattle over the past two weeks.

The price trend has become almost as predictable as weather in so far as dark clouds overhead signal the onset of a downpour, increasing the weekly supply of cattle above 30,000 head is a sure sign that prices will come under pressure.

Last week the kill hit around 31,500 head. Steers accounted for just short of 15,000 head, an increase of more than 1,000 head on the previous week as producers took advantage of the stronger prices to sell finished animals.

The general quote from the factories for steers this week is a base price of 303-305c/kg (108p-109p/lb). There was a shade of nervousness noticeable among the factories on Monday that the reduction in price could deplete their bookings for the week as producers pulled back.

While stock for the early days were already booked in mostly at last weeks prices, deals on supplies for the later half of the week were being done at 3-4 cents/kg over the quotes in a softening of the full impact of the reduction. While some of the plants are willing to pay up to 8c/kg (3p/lb) more for good heifers others are saying that anything over the steer price will only be paid on very good quality heifers.

The early indications were that bookings were very strong for the week. The full impact of the price cut remains to be seen.

There is some variation in the prices on offer, with the usual pattern of the lower prices in the south emerging.

Prices in the midlands are stronger and the north west leads the country – as usual – with last week’s rates reported to be still attainable for the tops.

The trade in Britain is reported to he holding steady as the seasonal switch from steak cuts to roasting and forequarter cuts kicks in. In regard to the steak trade, rumps are reported to be faring best, as the end of the summer holidays and the return to school help trade.

In contrast to this country, prices have increased slightly with R4L grade steers averaging at stg 271p/kg which is equivalent to 347c/kg (124p/lb) incl. VAT.

On the Continent, the beef trade remained steady over the past week with prices reflecting this pattern, as demand held up well across most key markets.

There is some variation in the trade for the cows. There is generally a base of 246c/kg (88p/lb) to 260c/kg (93p/lb) for O/P grade cows, while up to 280c/kg (100p/lb) is reported to be achievable for the quality R grade cows.


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