There was a hint of weakening in the beef trade at the factories this week, but not a lot of evidence on the ground that it was being in any way effective on the returns to producers at least for the early days.
Supply has continued strong, and demand at the processing plants has eased with the Christmas orders in place — which leaves it a level field between producers and processors, each trying to hold command on prices on their side.
The result is that the quoted prices are unchanged at around 370 cents/kg base price for the steers with the processors now paying up to 375 cents/kg for a good percentage of the throughput, despite having tried their hand at reducing the price by a few cents/kg.
The heifers are continuing at a premium of 10 cents/kg over the steers, setting the quoted base at 380 cents/kg and similar to the steers, a majority of the heifers making up to 385 cents/kg base.
However, in both heifer and steer categories, getting above the 375-385 cents/kg for the steers and heifers respectively is extremely difficult and therefore believed to be quite the exception.
The break for Christmas at the factories will be quite short with a number of the factories planning to kill for two days in the week following Christmas Day because most of them will need to get some stock through to maintain the fresh supplies to the supermarket trade for restocking after the pre-Christmas consumer demand.
Any positive change to the prices seems unlikely with the almost certainty that the processors will not experience any difficulty in getting sufficient to meet their requirements.
The cow prices continue to range 280-305 cents/kg for O/P grades and up to 320-325 cents/kg the general run for the R grade cows this week.
The intake last week remained very strong at around 35,250 head and it is likely to be close to the same level this week.
In the UK, the market remained relatively unchanged over the past week with some ease in demand reported. Prices for the R4L grade steers were down marginally in sterling terms and were averaging at Stg 367.5 /kg, a price which was equivalent to 464 cent/kg (including Vat) with the euro having weakened again, making around 84p sterling on average.
In France the trade has shown little change with lower market demand for steak cuts with offal performing best. Retail promotions were centred mainly on domestically produced product such as ribs and steaks.
There was also little evidence of change in the market in Italy, with demand remaining relatively stable while the trade was best for lower value forequarter cuts.
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