Data compiled by Bord Bia shows that the across the EU the 25th of April appears to have been the nadir as far as beef prices were concerned.
Driven downwards, by the complete closure of the hospitality and fast food sectors across the continent, the average EU price for R3 steers and bulls bottomed out that week at €3.44/kg.
In Ireland that week the average slumped €3.40/kg with R3’s in the UK settling at €3.70/kg. Five weeks later on the 30th of May that same data show the average price for R3 steers in Ireland had risen 22c/kg to €3.62/kg with the UK price up 21c/kg to €3.91/kg.
Back on the 25th of April the kill here stood at 25,129. Just over a week ago on the 31st of May that figure was up 5,930 to 31,059.
What all this data shows is that demand for beef from the supermarket trade helped balance the loss of those other sectors and then some.
How else do you account for the fact that as supplies increased so too has the price?
Granted over the last three weeks bullocks have been fixed up or down a shake at €3.55-3.60/kg with heifers ranging from €3.60-3.65 and €3.70/kg in some cases.
Now with Covid restrictions across the continent easing and the likes of McDonald's gradually getting up to speed it would be fair to assume there may be a further but gradual increase in demand.
This is reflected in the fact that after wobbling over the last two weeks cull cow prices appear to be recovering with those better P grades once again floating around the €2.70-2.75/kg mark with O grades on €2.80-2.85/kg and R’s back up around €3.00-3.10/kg.
On the bull side prices appear fixed at €3.55-3.60/kg for U’s with R’s continuing on €3.50/kg.
However, there has to be a question as to how much longer the supply from the sheds will last.
In March of this year economist, Jim Power released his report “An independent assessment of the Irish beef industry” Commissioned by the IFA, Mr Power’s analysis ran to some 106 pages.
Like many such reports once in the public domain, those who commissioned and paid for it appeared to have little interest in developing the points raised further. This is disappointing especially as Mr Power quotes US price index legislation relevant to cattle in detail, eight pages of it.
The direction given by president Trump recently to the US Justice Department to begin an antitrust investigation into the American beef industry shows that it is possible under legislation for such an industry to be examined for the greater good.
In relation to Ireland however, Mr Power concludes sadly by saying:
“The author of this report has never experienced a supply chain with such a basic lack of trust, and this is not a good place from which to build a successful beef industry. A collaborative approach to meeting the challenges in the sector is essential.
"This will require a much greater level of transparency, and unless such transparency is forthcoming from the processing and retail sectors in particular, it will be difficult to make progress and achieve success.”
In my opinion, the IFA needs to inform itself more broadly and to a far greater degree if they are to be truly serious about delivering for beef farmers.
Fighting short term engagements on price isn’t enough. It’s popular, but it’s not enough.