Beef market report: Only cow prices are holding up

Downward pressure on beef prices at factories continued this week, as processors took advantage of the supply remaining strong.

The base price on offer at most of the factories for the steers this week is reduced to 370 cents/kg, with a price squeeze which was evident in the western half of the country last week now being extended across the country.

It is more difficult this week to get any top-up on quoted price, with processors digging their heels in, and finding it easy to get sufficient cattle to meet their requirements.

Heifers are being quoted at a premium of 10 cents/kg over steer prices, at a base of 380 cents/kg.

Similar to the steers, the processors are working hard at getting supplies as close as possible to the offer price, but nevertheless there is some scope to get a few cents/kg extra on the heifers, which reflects the dominance of the steers in the intake increase of recent weeks.

Last week, the kill increased by a further 500 head to around 34,500 head, bringing to more than 2,000 the increase in the weekly kill over the past fortnight, which has left processors in a very strong position to resist farmer pressure on prices.

An easing in the flow of cattle to the factories could stall the downward price movement, but at individual farmer level, it is a difficult decision between deciding to sell, or to hold in the hope of prices increasing.

The price trend is also disappointing for IFA, representing a negative response from processors to their protest on beef prices at Tullamore last week. 

At the Aldi supermarket in Tullamore, IFA accused retailers and processors of short-changing farmers and misleading consumers over the unfair farmer’s share of the retail price.

In previous years, there was often an opportunity to benefit from a tighter supply of cattle to the factories coinciding with the holding of the National Ploughing Championships.

However, in the past two years, intake was not affected in the week of the Ploughing, and the early indications for this week were that the supply was holding strong.

Ground conditions on many farms have deteriorated over the past two weeks, putting cattle farmers under more pressure to lighten stocking levels. 

Farms in the western counties were the worst affected up to last week, when the problem became more widespread, following heavy nationwide rainfall, coupled with poor drying conditions.

Cow prices are the one sector of the trade which is holding up for farmers.

There is no change in the quoted prices for the cows.

Processors offer a base of 280 cents/kg for P-grade, increasing to 290 cents/kg for O-grade, and up to 310-315 cents/kg being offered for Rs this week.


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