There is a strong sense of a tougher trade for beef animals at factories this week, as the strength of supply continues to pressurise prices being paid for stock.
The intake at the factories has fully recovered to pre-Christmas levels, more than enough for processors to meet all requirements from a market place in which the UK trade has weakened, and continental markets are not very exciting.
These trends help to explain why the trade this week can be described as stable at the base prices, at best.
The higher returns of earlier weeks are no longer generally available, according to reports from around the country.
The base price quoted for steers is generally 375 cents/kg in the south, with a bit of 380 cents/kg further up country.
Doing any better is regarded as the exception this week.
Heifer prices are generally on a base of 10-15 cents/kg higher than the steers, with a reasonable percentage of the intake believed to be hitting a base of 390 cents/kg, and a few lots achieving a few extra cents.
The most positive sign in the trade this week is stable prices on offer for cows.
The O/P-grade cow prices are 290-325 cents/kg, and the Rs are making 340-345 cents/kg.
The supply to beef plants increased by more than 1,000 head last week, to the highest weekly kill year-to-date, at around 34,200 head, which is very strong for the early days of February, and certainly doing cattle farmers no favours in terms of dictating prices.
The kill includes a strong supply of young bulls, which numbered around 5,500 head.
In the UK, the beef trade remains unchanged, with ongoing strong supplies reported to be sufficient to meet current demand levels.
Prices for R4L-grade steers eased, averaging at 362.6 pence/kg in sterling terms, equivalent to 450 cent/kg.
In France, the market has continued to be dominated by domestic product.
There has also been an easing in demand in Italy which has negatively affected prices.
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