Martin Coughlan: First shots fired at Irish beef fail to dent prices
The UK government's attempts to sabotage the Irish cattle trade with threats of chronically high tariffs should be seen, in my opinion, for what they were - a crude attempt to turn Irish beef into a political bargaining chip.
The old policy of divide and conquer appeared to be coming to the fore.
Never one to miss a trick, Meat Industry Ireland's Cormac Healy was out of the blocks straight away. He quite rightly stated that tariffs "will undermine the viability of trade".
Mr Healy outlined the worst-case scenario with tariffs of "€1,500 per tonne on manufacturing beef up to over €2,500 per tonne on steak exports" followed by his assertion that "very quickly, we can expect to see erosion of our position in the UK due to stiff competition from lower-priced beef from other regions".
The ICSA then said the tariff rates by the British government crystallises the worst fears of the impact of a no-deal Brexit on the Irish beef sector.
"In practice, this suggests that Irish beef which is subjected to the tariff will be about 40pc dearer than currently and therefore most UK consumers would be deterred from buying it," said the ICSA.
"UK supermarkets would then have to choose between vastly increased beef prices or buying less traceable, low-standard beef from South America."
Yet Tesco in the UK said it only sells Irish and British beef in the UK and has no plans to source from elsewhere as much of the product in South America does not meet its strict quality standards.
EU Commissioner Phil Hogan has urged Irish farmers not to panic as he believes - even with a no-deal - demand for premium Irish products in the UK will remain steady.
So these were the first shots fired in the real negotiations with the EU.
There is some way to go yet and despite the concern over the potential tariffs, trade resumes today with no change in prices.
Meaning €3.75/kg for bullocks and €3.85/kg for heifers is what's being paid.
Yes there are rumours that some plants may be quoting 5c/kg less, but they are only that, rumours.
So the reality is it's steady as you go. There were no Department kill figures available yesterday, but my expectation is that the kill last week will be in line with the current trend of 35,000+.
Quotes for cows also appear to be staying static, with the general run of R grades fit to get €3.00/kg or a shade above this, O grades vary from €2.75-2.85/kg with your P3 type cow seeing prices from €2.70-2.55/kg. Some plants yesterday were attempting 5c/kg less but I'm told were not making the progress they would like.
Trade for bulls remains very tricky. Quotes for U grades range from €3.60-3.50/kg, with Rs on €3.50-3.40/kg, while Os are variously reported as selling from €3.35-3.00/kg depending on breed, numbers and whether you're a regular customer.
All in all, no good news; and we lost the rugby.
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