Factories play chicken in bid to keep struggling farmers in line

 

Gort Mart. Photo Brian Farrell
Gort Mart. Photo Brian Farrell
Martin Coughlan

Martin Coughlan

My probing on prices brought this response from one factory agent yesterday: "As long as you can buy a cooked chicken for €6 to feed a family, beef will be forever too dear."

I don't know if he had been tutored but it was slick. I came back with €4 of diced beef for a stew or stroganoff. Maybe Bolognese, €3 of mince.

When factory agents start comparing the price of chicken to beef, farmers better start thinking outside the box.

Is buying food for most consumers just about feeding the family? Or is it about saving money as you feed the family? Money to change the car, go on a foreign holiday or buy the latest in TV or phone technology.

Which had me wondering is part of the attraction of veganism the belief it's a cheaper diet? Or is it just trendy?

Either way, the real world of the Irish beef finisher continues to be like the Meath dressing-room after Sunday's Leinster football final: a very depressing place.

Despite factory quotes for bullocks and heifers appearing to have stabilised respectively around the €3.75-3.85/kg mark, quotes by lunchtime yesterday were 5c/kg lighter in some plants as news that last week's kill hit 34,624 filtered through the system.

Cow prices slipped a bit as last week moved on, with quotes lower by 5-10c/kg in most plants, but appeared yesterday to have stabilised, with better P grades being quoted around €2.85-2.90/kg, with Os on €2.90/kg and R grades €3.10-3.20/kg.

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The expectation is that cow numbers will begin to grow, and this could put pressure on their price.

With bulls, U grades are in the €3.80-3.85/kg range with R grades €3.70-3.75/kg. O grades vary depending on numbers offered, the mix with other grades and whether any are of dairy origin. In general, €3.40-3.60/kg should cover most. As always establish in advance if weight limits apply.

A question hovering in the background is, if cow numbers increase will the bull producer again be the one to suffer?

In relation to that €100 million emergency aid package the questions keep coming.

ICMSA livestock chairman Des Morrison asks: "What of the current losses being incurred by finishers and primary producers? Prices today are at the levels that both the commissioner and the IFA agreed were unsustainable from October last year to March 23, 2019? What happens if things don't improve? What happens if things get worse after Brexit?"

It appears that base prices from €3.70-3.75/kg for bullocks and €3.80-3.85/kg for heifers in their October-March reference period were the trigger for this EU intervention.

The division of this €100m won't be simple. Excluding feedlots, while populist in its appeal, ignores their role in underpinning prices and keeping suckler stock moving ringside - ask any mart manager.

By the time this money is paid out, will what the winter finishers get be enough to convince them to commit to another year?

For the processing sector, that is the only question they would like an answer to.

Indo Farming


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