'There's no cattle glut' - IFA
Published 21/06/2016 | 02:30
Debate over a potential cattle glut next autumn has intensified as cattle prices dropped for the second week in a row.
The IFA has moved to play down forecasts by Bord Bia and the Minister for Agriculture that 50,000-80,000 additional cattle would be arriving at the factory gates this autumn.
Livestock chairman Angus Woods has instead claimed that 24-36 month animals were down by 58,000hd compared with last year.
However, Bord Bia analysis shows that this was largely a result of the trend to slaughter animals at a younger age.
The food agency maintains that the combination of lower exports to Northern Ireland, increasing numbers of culls, and an increase in young bulls will more than counter this fact.
In addition to the increase this autumn, AIMS data is pointing to an increase of more than 100,000 head being fit for slaughter next spring.
Cull cow numbers have continued to rise, and prices are back by 10c/kg to €3.40/kg for R grades. Prices for prime steers and heifers are also back by 5c/kg, a development that has alarmed farmers during a month when prices traditionally remained stable or hardened.
Livestock exporters looked to take advantage of the trade's uncertainty by dampening expectations for the Turkish trade, despite their cries for action just a few weeks ago.
Three major exporters, who all declined to be named, told the Farming Independent that "nothing will move in the short term" to Turkey until domestic prices for stock dropped to €2/kg.
They pointed to a 60pc import levy on all stock as one of the main reasons that stock needed to be sourced so cheaply.
However, the IFA claims that cattle prices in Turkey are €7.50-8.00/kg, with feeders paying €4.00-4.50/kg for younger stock on the hoof.
The Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed has also thrown down the gauntlet to exporters, challenging them to "step into the breach".
"This is going to be a tremendous help given the glut with 80,000 extra cattle and extra dairy culls, but the challenge is now for exporters to step into the breach," he said.
He added that there was potential for other types of cattle to go to the Turkish market, including breeding stock, and noted that the Egyptian market was already open but suffering from low prices.
However, exporters were adamant that Irish cattle are too expensive for Turkey.
"Irish cattle prices are a big part of the problem," said one operator.
The IFA has lashed out at processors claiming that their 'undermining of prices' was very damaging to the Irish beef sector.
ICMSA Beef Chairman Michael Guinan, welcoming the announcement on Turkey, stressed the need for follow-through.
"The danger is that this development just stops at the announcement - as was the case with the Egyptian one last February," he said.