Irish Beef Prices Remain Stagnant Despite Strong UK Demand
According to the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA), beef prices in Ireland have remained stagnant, moving up by just 24c/kg since the beginning of the year. Latest figures from Bord Bia show that the Irish composite cattle price is currently at €5.07 compared to the export benchmark price of €4.81. Brendan Golden, IFA livestock chair, has stated that the most expensive cattle are “those produced by winter finishers”. However, he has also argued that beef prices do not reflect the high input costs that farmers have been battling against. Teagasc figures, he says, “clearly show prices need to be in the region of €6.00/kg for winter finishers to be covered”.
Golden has also pointed out that demand for beef is strong in the UK market, with estimated spend up 9% on beef in the past three months, while volumes have fallen slightly by 1.7%. He anticipates that demand will increase over the coming weeks against the backdrop of supplies of finished cattle tightening. As a result, he believes that “price increases must be on the table”.
Bord Bia had previously predicted that supplies would fall back this year by 50,000 to 60,000 cattle, with the majority of that reduction expected in the first six months of the year. However, the IFA has said that supplies only reduced by 30,000 up to the end of April, which “points to a significant tightening in numbers of finished cattle for the next two to three months”. The farming body has estimated that this would bring weekly throughput below 30,000 head at a time “when demand is strong for beef in our key export market”.
Golden has called on Irish farmers to secure stronger beef prices. “This positive supply, demand balance in the coming weeks and months must return higher beef prices to farmers,” he said.
It is clear that Irish beef farmers are struggling to make a profit. While demand for beef in the UK market remains strong, prices have not increased in line with the high input costs that farmers face. The IFA’s call for higher prices is therefore understandable, particularly given the anticipated tightening of supplies over the next few months.
It is worth noting that the issue of beef prices is not unique to Ireland. Farmers across the UK have also been struggling with low prices, with some even resorting to protests in order to draw attention to their plight. As such, it is likely that any price increases in Ireland will be closely watched by farmers in other countries.
In conclusion, it is clear that the Irish beef industry is facing significant challenges. While demand for beef in the UK remains strong, prices have not increased in line with the high input costs that farmers face. The anticipated tightening of supplies over the next few months only adds to the pressure on farmers. As such, the IFA’s call for higher prices is understandable, and it remains to be seen whether the market will respond accordingly.