Gradual recovery evident in improved price levels

Beef prices at the factories continue to gradually improve, edging up a few more cents/kg this week, while the supply of cattle continues at a record high level.

Most processors have quoted up to 5 cents/kg more for stock this week, bringing the aggregate improvement over recent weeks to around 25 cents/kg, equivalent to around €90/head, representing a long overdue but gradual recovery, from the point of view of farmers.

It is obvious that the outpouring of anger by farmers over the past month, led by the IFA, has got the message home to processors that tolerance of low beef prices had been exhausted.

The general base price being quoted for steers this week is 385 cents/kg.

However, processors are sticking tightly to the quoted price, with the exception of a few deals for a couple of cents/kg more at the top quality level.

The premium for heifers, over steers, has tightened to 5 cents/kg for the base quotes, but some farmers are negotiating up to 10 cents/kg over the quoted prices for heifers.

The supply of cattle continues at record levels.

Last week’s kill was around 36,600 head — just slightly under the eight-year high record kill of a few weeks ago.

Expectations that the supply would tighten to below 30,000 head in the lead-up to the Christmas trade have once again been dashed.

The 36,600 head kill included almost 16,000 steers and over 9,000 heifers.

There are only a couple of weeks left for processors to get their pre-Christmas requirements and they will, undoubtedly, feel secure that under-supply will not put any pressure on them.

As for cattle farmers, they are justified in arguing that the 72 hours of factory protests under the IFA banner have not delivered enough to restore profitability.

However, some benefit has come their way as a result of their action, leading many among the IFA membership to feel that some action should have been initiated against processors much earlier in the season. Meanwhile, there is no change in cow prices at the factories, where the base for O/P-grade is 310-325 cents/kg, and Rs are being quoted at up to 340-345 cents/kg.

In Britain, cattle prices have increased, with R4L-grade steers averaging equivalent to 481 cent/kg (including VAT). There has been some increase in demand, particularly for round cuts, with retail volumes reported to be rising on the back of seasonal promotions. In France, the market remained steady on the back of promotions.


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