The factory trade continues to return no good news for those in the fattening game despite kill figures remaining very low, 25,129 for the week ending the 24th of April.
Tentative signs two weeks ago that base prices for bullocks and heifers might be about to rise have so far failed to materialise; as every factory agent I spoke with over the weekend continued to quote a base price for bullocks and heifers of €3.40/kg.
The fact that this is a short working week means that a lot of what will be required was probably bought last week meaning that factories are under very little pressure to source extra supplies.
The position of the factories on price is simple; until UK and EU markets reopen fully they will continue to struggle to move what they are currently slaughtering.
Yet the European Commission Observatory report for the week ending the 24th of April shows the average price of U+R+O grade steers in the UK and Northern Ireland as being significantly ahead of here.
The average of the three grades combined in the UK is reported as 375.96c/kg with Northern Ireland averaging 370.98c/kg while the Irish equivalent works out at 346.33c/kg. The average for France, however, is not as promising at 336.20c/kg. Yet that combined French figure obscures the fact that French U grade steers averaged 376.44c/kg.
I grant you it’s not simple at present with the Covid lockdown continuing in some shape or form across the continent and in the UK but speaking with finishers there is also growing anger towards the farm organisations as well as the factories.
With the demise of the Beef Plan Movement, those with cattle to kill are now once again reliant on the IFA and ICSA to ask the hard questions. So far however I’m sorry to say neither appears to have been effective in getting across the message of where beef finishing in this country is now at.
If the price paid to Irish producers does not dramatically improve the spectre of Irish beef production winding down to the point where imports from Poland into our UK backyard will become the norm rather than the exception.
Returning to prices, factory quotes for young bulls were yesterday back 5c/kg to €3.40-3.45/kg for U’s with R’s once again on €3.30-3.35/kg while O grades are €3.20/kg. With the market depressed the problem of getting a plant to actually take them also remains.
The only positive I can pick out concerns cull cows with their prices appearing to be hardening around the €2.90/kg mark for R’s and with O grades edging towards €2.70/kg while better P’s move up slightly to €2.50/kg. For those who specialise in cull cows, I’m told that a “shade” more is possible for well-fleshed types.
Looking at those cull cow prices the manufacturing side of the processing sectors business remains the one area where supplies appear to be needed with your cull cow is the cheapest option.
In the US and the reality of how important continuity of supply is to the security of that nation had President Donald Trump last Tuesday signing an executive order under the Defence Protection Act designating meat production plants as critical infrastructure and ordering them to stay open despite concerns about the spread of the Covid 19 virus among workers. This is the same act that allowed him to direct General Motors to increase production of ventilators