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Martin Coughlan: Beef quotes are back slightly, but there’s no need for panic

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16/03/2020

Trying to stop the spread of Coronavirus.........Farmers wear protective gloves at the sales ring at Tuam mart. Photo: Ray Ryan

16/03/2020 Trying to stop the spread of Coronavirus.........Farmers wear protective gloves at the sales ring at Tuam mart. Photo: Ray Ryan

16/03/2020 Trying to stop the spread of Coronavirus.........Farmers wear protective gloves at the sales ring at Tuam mart. Photo: Ray Ryan

I indulged in a few hours of musical nostalgia on Sunday afternoon. Those of you who are regular readers may have figured out by now through the occasional references here that I like rock 1970s style – big, brash and loud.

This bout of nostalgia has nothing to do with factory prices but it made me feel slightly better before I sat down to ponder the problems now facing the trade as Covid-19 effectively cripples much of the European economy.

First off all quotes for bullocks are back 5c/kg to €3.65/kg, with heifers quoted variously at €3.65-3.70/kg.

Young bulls appear less affected, with €3.60/kg for Us still available. R and O grades remain on €3.50 and €3.40/kg respectively.

Cull cows, however, have tumbled by anything from 10-20c/kg. This leaves your O grade at €2.90-3.00/kg, with better P grades on €2.90-2.80/kg. R grade culls are still reported as making €3.20/kg.

The reality is that as this country, Britain and Europe implement the measures required to deal with this virus, the demand for high-end cuts of beef from hotels and restaurants will shrink.

We see it here at home; weddings and every other conceivable social, sporting or business event where food is a central component have had to be cancelled.

And it’s not just the more expensive products in the beef catalogue that will be affected.

Your typical British soccer supporter likes his burger or kebab after the match of a Saturday, with much of these coming from plants in the Republic. Judging by how the British are handling the situation, I don’t see much soccer being played in Britain in the immediate future.

The Euro 2020 tournament also appears to be in doubt. Big sporting events such as the Euros have always given a lift to the beef trade as every food vending business be they hotels, restaurants or fast food chains gear up to cater for the influx of supporters.

The reality now is we don’t know how all this will actually play out.

Scale

Modern societies don’t just shut down completely. Food supply is a necessity not to mention a matter of national security.

Trade will continue, of that there is no doubt; it will be a matter of scale and adjusting to new protocols in the supply chain.

Panic buying has seen supermarkets here and elsewhere emptied of basics such as bread, milk and meat. However, these have so far always been restocked the following day. And that’s the message that has to be got out there: the Irish food industry will continue to deliver. Beef prices to farmers may further reduce, but I don’t see a collapse because as we get further into this the whole system will adapt. It has to.

AC/DC have a song called ‘Highway to Hell’ - things are bad, but we ain’t on that particular thoroughfare just yet.

Online Editors