Farm Ireland

Sunday 19 November 2017

Beef price dip as live export hopes wane

Concerns raised over cut in beef prices
Concerns raised over cut in beef prices
Darragh McCullough

Darragh McCullough

Cattle prices tumbled again this week, with farmers blaming the absence of a live export trade for the €110/hd slide since June.

While cattle prices at both the marts and meat factories slipped by up to 30c/kg this week, sheep quotes have strengthened on the back of further shipments of live lambs to North Africa.

Another shipment of 10,000 lambs is being loaded in Waterford this week, with an additional 5,000 to be sourced for the same market before the end of July.

In contrast, hopes that a new outlet for live exports of cattle are fading as a British farm leader poured cold water on suggestions that Tesco is to ramp up the sourcing of Irish-born beef for its British stores.

Andy Foot, who is beef chairman at the National Farmers Union (NFU) said Tesco management in Britain had assured them that the supermarket chain had no plans to increase volumes of beef being sold through the "Irish-born, British-finished" labelling system.

A Tesco spokesman contacted by the Farming Independent said he could not comment on reports in the farming press that suggested that the retailer was willing to allow Irish-born cattle that were finished in Britain to be sold as British beef.

But the NFU went further and totally dismissed the reports.

"We've been told that there's no truth in it whatsoever," said Mr Foot.

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Irish farmers were hopeful that a change in purchasing policy by Britain's largest retail chain would provide additional competition in the market place for Irish-reared cattle.

While British feedlots are attracted by the prospect of sourcing a cheaper Irish alternative to expensive British stock, their factories have refused to slaughter Irish cattle on the basis of labelling issues.

However, some Irish stock are already being finished on Northern Irish farms and being sold under the Irish-born, British-finished label.

"There is already some trade between Northern Ireland and the South in terms of beef sold under Tesco's 'Irish born, British finished' label. But there's certainly not going to be any increase from what we're led to believe," said the NFU's Mr Foot.


The English beef leader maintained that the price difference between Britain and Ireland didn't justify the logistics that would be required.

"If it was economically viable, it would already be happening, but the logistics don't stack up for larger numbers of stock," he said.

Mr Foot also believes that any move that weakened prices in Britain would also undermine Irish cattle prices, especially if it undermined consumer confidence in the Red Tractor scheme that is used to promote British produce on the supermarket shelves.

"The Red Tractor is holding up prices on both sides of the Irish Sea. Even the Irish farm leaders from the IFA that we met with admitted as much. They were adamant that the scheme was doing a wonderful job keeping prices up for Irish farmers. But if we start watering down the difference between the British beef and imports, it will also water down the price difference," he said.

In response, a statement from the IFA said that there was no discussion regarding the Red Tractor scheme at their last meeting with the NFU.

However, IFA livestock chairman, Henry Burns, said that the "stymied competition" in the beef sector highlighted the urgent need for more live exports.

"Minister Coveney must take immediate action to open up the live export trade to Britain and instil some real competition into the livestock sector," he said.

Indo Farming

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