Brexit beef chaos hitting prices by up to €150/hd

Gap between Irish and UK factory trade widens as farmers here bear brunt of the Brexit pressure

A Farmer puts out silage for the Hereford and Aberdeen Angus cattle in a shed on his farm. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne
A Farmer puts out silage for the Hereford and Aberdeen Angus cattle in a shed on his farm. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne
Auctioneer George Candler pictured outside the Kilkenny Mart premises at Cillin Hill Photo: Roger Jones

Declan O'Brien and Martin Coughlan

Beef farmers are continuing to count their losses as it emerged Irish finishers received €85 a head less than British farmers in recent weeks amid mounting Brexit uncertainty.

The crisis in the beef trade continues as prices remain on the floor, while expectations grow that Brexit may be delayed.

However, farm organisations have warned beef finishers are already suffering from low prices at the most expensive time of the year.

ICSA beef chairman Edmund Graham said: "The reality is that Irish farmers are being hit much harder by Brexit than British farmers, even though Ireland did not cause Brexit."

Irish finishers received €85/hd less than their British counterparts for fat heifers this month, compared to a €55/hd difference in January.

The price differential between Irish and British fat cattle increased by more than 50pc over the last month.

Figures released by the Livestock and Meat Commission (LMC) for Northern Ireland show a price differential of 25.8c/kg, which works out at €85/hd on a 330kg carcass.

The ICSA pointed out that an even bigger differential has emerged for young bulls, with the gap between British and Irish prices widening to €150/hd for U3 animals.

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"The differential is unacceptable and does not even allow for the fact that bulls over 400kg are being crucified," said Mr Graham.

"If you have bulls over 400kg, which is typical for continental cattle, you are down at least another 10c. The reality is that every possible option for winter finishing is unviable," he maintained.

"When you see that the euro is weaker against sterling this year compared to last, we have to question what is going on? Brexit does not explain this differential."

Mart prices boost

However, in contrast to the factory trade, both shippers and farmers have been extremely active ringside at the marts in recent days.

Mart managers reported strong interest in buyers for quality Angus and Hereford-types.

Prices for Angus store cattle have increased by up to €100 in the last month, while Herefords are also performing strongly. Mart managers reported the lighter weight stores were headed for grass.

However, continental-type forward stores from 520kg-plus were reported as meeting extremely strong demand from feedlots.

George Candler of Kilkenny Mart said: "Trade is remarkably firm especially when you consider the present uncertain climate we find ourselves in."

John O'Hanlon of Ballymahon Mart said trade was swift over the past few days. He said farmers appeared to want to have stock bought in ahead of "possibly even more uncertain times".

Gerry Finnerty from Ennis Mart said the mild weather and strong grass growth has brought out the buyers. Farmers are probably "banking" on the mild weather continuing and that "Brexit will be a transition with anything bought now being gone before it really bites".

In Macroom, manager John O'Mahony said the trade "for stores is good", with Angus cattle in the 470-550kg bracket making up to and over €2.00/kg.

Indo Farming

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