Martin Coughlan: Farmers asking - where has all that cold-store beef gone?

Factories

Martin Coughlan

Martin Coughlan

The squeeze on supplies continues with last week's kill reaching just 29,641. The general run of quotes yesterday morning saw bullocks on €3.90/kg, with heifers at €4.00/kg.

However, those closest to the trade, and those with stock to sell, all agree those prices are just the opening gambit, especially if you have numbers.

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On the bull side there appears to a wide variation in prices with quotes for U grades ranging from €3.80-3.60/kg, R grades are €3.70-3.50/kg, with your continental O grade at around €3.50-3.60/kg.

Friesian O grade bulls are reportedly making €3.40-3.40+/kg. However, I have had reports of up to €3.75/kg being paid flat where bigger numbers of Friesians were concerned, with flat prices as high as €3.85/kg being paid to secure numbers of continentals.

Turning to the cow trade, R grades are moving for €3.30-3.40/kg, with O grades making €3.00-3.20/kg, and P grades on €2.90-3.00/kg.

IFA livestock chairman Angus Woods said feeders were offered €3.95-4.00/kg for steers and €4.05-4.10 for heifers but were holding out for more. Mr Woods also noted that British prices have risen 14c/kg in the past four weeks, with the current UK price equivalent to €4.33/kg.

All of this is in stark contrast to the picture painted by Cormac Healy of Meat Industry Ireland (MII) last March.

On the March 22 Mr Healy was very down beat about beef prospects due to a supposed chronic shortage of cold storage space across Ireland and Britain.

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"Feedback from members is that cold storage availability both in Ireland and in the UK is critically short," Mr Healy said.

The inference was clear, factory base prices, then at €3.70/kg for bullocks and €3.80/kg for heifers, were in danger of being further reduced as the need to source additional storage would indicate that MII believed that markets were weakening further.

So how is it that within two weeks of this dour announcement factories were forced to actually raise prices as they began chasing supplies to fill contracts?

Farmers who sold beef in the early part of this year are now wondering where has all that beef that was in storage now gone? They are also wondering how much of what Meat industry Ireland tells them is spin.

On a personal note, a special word of thanks to all who attended my late mother's funeral last week. The Coughlan family were humbled by the numerous expressions of genuine sympathy and solidarity. Thank you all so much.

Indo Farming