The beef trade at the factories has continued on a steady note, with the recovery in supply being maintained, and prices hardening slightly this week.
In sharp contrast, the beef price in the UK has dropped to the lowest level in five years after sharp declines in recent weeks, which continued over the past week with cuts of 2.6p and 2p/kg for steers and heifers.
The UK takes nearly half of Ireland’s beef, and the UK base steer price has fallen to within 10-12 cents/kg equivalent of the Irish price.
Here in Ireland, the base quote for steers consolidated closer to 395 cents/kg around the country this week, and some beef farmers are doing deals for up to 400 cents/kg.
The latter is not readily available in the south of the country, where beef prices are usually weaker, due to the stronger supplies generally available for the processors.
Further north, cattle numbers are tightening, and processors are finding they are having to pay a few cents extra to get the stock into their factories.
The heifer price premium over steer prices has tightened a shade, to 5 cents/kg at the base, with the quotes ranging upwards from 400 cents/kg, but most of the heifers are making 405 cents/kg, and some farmers are doing deals for 405 cents/kg this week.
There are reports of up to 410 cents/kg being paid as a base for heifers, but it is not generally available.
There was very little change in the national beef cattle supply last week, at around 30,400 head, with intakes of steers, heifers and cows each steady.
Year-to-date, the supply to the factories has been running at an average of 1,000 head/week ahead of last year.
Seasonal patterns suggest that supply should be tightening over the coming weeks, which will put more pressure on processors to increase the prices on offer.
There is a steady trade for cows at unchanged prices.
The base for O/P-grade cows is in the 315-335 cents/kg range, and up to 350 cents/kg is offered for better quality Rs.
Beef prices are continuing to slip back in Britain, where the average for R4L-grade steers declined last week to 327.5p/kg, while heifers of the same grade came back 2p to 327.5p/kg.
In euro terms, the British steer price is now equivalent to €4.12/kg, while the latest Northern Irish R3 steer price equates to €3.88, excluding VAT (at an exchange rate of 79.5p for the euro).
Demand for beef in Britain is reported as sluggish.
In France, the beef trade remains difficult, with prices under pressure.
The trade in Italy is largely unchanged, with some further tightening in domestic cattle supplies reported.
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