Farming

| 23.2°C Dublin

Tumbling Irish cattle prices rumoured to hit €4.90/kg

Close

Deciphering movements in the Irish cattle market is a mystery. Photo: Gerry Faughnan

Deciphering movements in the Irish cattle market is a mystery. Photo: Gerry Faughnan

Factory figures

Factory figures

/

Deciphering movements in the Irish cattle market is a mystery. Photo: Gerry Faughnan

The Voynich Manuscript from the early 15th century has baffled generations of linguistics, scholars and cryptographers — even modern computer programs have failed to give definitive answers as to the meaning of its mysterious contents*.

The same level of study in relation to the workings of the Irish cattle trade would probably give a very similar result — fascinating but unfathomable.

Take the question of how/why factory quotes for beef have tumbled back so rapidly over the last four weeks. From a point where base prices had appeared to have stabilised around the €5.40/kg mark, we are now back around €5.00-€5.10/kg, with rumours that this week will see €4.90/kg being offered.

The line being given by the factories is that beef prices are falling in Europe and the Irish price is well above the EU average.

Data from the Department’s meat market report for the week ending June 26 shows the average Irish dead-weight cattle price to be 43c/kg above the EU average at €5.28/kg versus the EU average of €4.85/kg.

Close

Factory figures

Factory figures

Factory figures

It seems pretty conclusive proof that Irish farmers had pushed the boundaries on factory prices as far as possible and a fall was inevitable, but I’m not totally convinced.

I don’t believe that the recent increase in kill numbers or allegedly weakening markets is the whole story. What we do know is the current overall beef price in Spain at €4.99/kg is stronger than it was at the start of May when prices here averaged €4.90/kg.

Prices in the Netherlands are back by 11c/kg at €5.31/kg but still currently 3c/kg stronger than here. Averages in France at €5.15/kg are less by 12c/kg than a month ago, all of which leaves the overall EU average at €4.85/kg, 1c/kg stronger than it was at the start of May.

At a time when food inflation is headed for double figures and demand for beef remains strong, how is it that from a position of such strength, i.e. base prices of €5.40/kg, the processors are now saying we could be at €4.90/kg this week?

I’m also not buying the line that factories can’t sell the beef. Yes, the market has tightened, but I’m yet to see supermarkets putting those dearer cuts on offer.

What’s more likely is factories are protecting their bottom line by passing all the pain back to the finisher. And what about imports? How much beef is actually coming into the country for further processing?

Figures from the CSO show the carcass weight equivalent of the beef imported into Ireland in 2020 was 35,000t*. This is an ongoing trade, but are those imports now affecting the trade and farmer prices?

All of this before we address the need for this winter’s finishers to access cheaper stores. Factory agents aren’t the only ones talking the trade lower.

Deciphering the movements of the cattle business, who benefits, who loses and why, is Ireland’s own Voynich Manuscript. 

*This article was updated on July 6 to correct the figure re beef imports. 

Farming Newsletter

Get the latest farming news and advice every Tuesday and Thursday.

This field is required


Privacy