Beef processors keep lid on prices as supply rises

Beef processors maintained their resistance to paying higher prices for beef cattle, during the latest 48-hour farmer protest at beef plants, which ended Tuesday.

They were assisted in this by the deluge of cattle supplied by farmers to the plants last week — the largest weekly intake for eight years.

The quoted base prices are unchanged, but there is some easing of the penalties for over-age stock.

Processors offer a base of 370 cents/kg for steers and 375 cents/kg for heifers.

Farmers are finding it very difficult to negotiate anything over the base price for steers, but are securing up to 10 cents/kg more than the base quote for better quality heifers, where demand is exceeding the supply.

There are reports that some farmers are also securing deals to avoid the over-age penalty in mixed lots of under and over-age animals.

The outcome of talks between Meat Industry Ireland (MII), representing the processors, and the IFA, on prices and specs going forward is anxiously awaited by all farmers, who find it hard to accept the argument of MII that there is no scope for improvement, despite the wide gap of up to €350/head between Irish and UK prices for similar weight animals.

The gap has widened from under €100 and yet processors argue that there is no room for improvement in returns to finishers for their cattle.

The supply last week was 37,521 head, the largest weekly intake since December 2006, with several plants handling about 2,000 head each, in preparation for the expected drop in supply this week as the farm protest resumed.

There were 16,600 steers supplied during the week, and about 9,000 heifers, with some 8,800 cows killed, the combination of which has eased the impact of this week’s 48-hour protest on processors.

There is no change in the trade for cows.

The base for O/P-grade cows is 305-325 cents/kg, and the quality Rs are making up to 345 cents/kg.

In Britain, cattle prices have continued to climb, with R4L-grade steers averaging equivalent to 485 cent/kg (including VAT). The difference of 115 cents/kg (over the Irish price) is equivalent to more than €400/head for the typical steer.

In France the market was reported as remaining steady, with ongoing promotions for topsides and striploins, and little change has been reported from the market in Italy.


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