Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Sunday 21 April 2019

Factories accused of 'naked opportunism' as beef prices take a tumble

 

REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne
REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

Ciaran Moran and Martin Coughlan

Farmers have reacted furiously as factory quotes for bullocks and heifers, and bulls in some places, slipped another 5c/kg this week .

Many plants will kill cattle this week at the old price of €3.75 and €3.85/kg, but most of these animals were bought up to two weeks' ago.

IFA President Joe Healy claimed there was a concerted effort by the meat factories to drive down the price of cattle.

He said “This is naked opportunism by the factories on the back of beef farmers”.

“There has been a huge national focus on the threat posed by Brexit to beef and the national economy. A cut to cattle prices would be an irresponsible act of sabotage by the meat factories at a time when the focus needs to be on Brexit,” he said.

He said farmers selling cattle at a base price of €3.75/kg for steers and €3.85/kg for heifers are taking cuts of 20-25c/kg below last year’s price levels, or reductions of up to €100 per head. Farmers selling young bulls have been hit for €200 per head.

IFA National Livestock Chairman Angus Woods said IFA has been in contact with all of the main meat factory bosses and MII on the cattle price issue.

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He said “With numbers set to tighten over the coming weeks, IFA and farmers are expecting cattle prices to rise”.

Market analysis - Martin Coughlan

Latest factory quotes leaves bullocks on €3.70/kg, with heifers on €3.80/kg.

With bulls, Us and Rs also slip to €3.40-3.50/kg, with Os €3.00-3.30/kg, with poorer quality animals possibly less.

Cow prices however remain steady with Rs generally in and around the €3.00/kg mark with Os on €2.75-2.85/kg and better Ps €2.55-€2.70/kg.

The factories would claim that the very high kill figures we have seen this spring are contributing to price pressures, yet they continue to mill their way through stock despite claims they can't sell it and they can't store it.

Last week's kill was 32,728, which is back on the previous figure of 34,299, however last week was a short week with the bank holiday.

What the number is this week will give a far clearer indication of where numbers are going.

The factories and agents have been accused of overcooking the negativity around the cattle price, which has damaged farmer confidence.

IFA livestock chair Angus Woods pointed out cattle prices in the main export market of the UK are STG£3.46 for the week ending March 9, the equivalent of €4.24/kg including VAT at an exchange rate of 86p/€. He said this compares to the official Irish steer price of €3.84/kg for the same week, and highlights a price differential of 40c/kg or up to €150 a head.

Larry Goodman and all the processors are businesses. As such their bottom line is key, and they cannot run at a loss. Perhaps it is time for all farmers to firmly treat their farms as businesses.

The first indication I had that there might be a pull in prices didn't come from any of the big players, it came 10 days ago during conversation with a smaller independent factory.

Fear-mongering over Brexit has been a major factor in winter finishers shutting up and taking their beating.

Many winter finishers have been placed in a very perilous position due to prices.

Is it time that winter finishers, and beef farmers as a whole, take a leaf out of the French farmers' cap?

Indo Farming