Farm Ireland

Thursday 14 December 2017

Opening of Egypt to Irish beef must result in better prices for farmers or else “it’s irrelevant”

Photo: O'Gorman Photography
Photo: O'Gorman Photography
Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

Securing new markets or ‘re-opening’ markets closed for whatever reason can not be seen as an end-in-itself, the Chairperson of ICMSA’s Livestock Committee, Michael Guinan, has said.

Commenting on the announcement of the re-opening of the Egyptian market to Irish beef, he said that obviously the more markets that were available to Irish beef exports the healthier the outlook for the sector and he paid tribute to the efforts of the officials responsible.

However, he said it cannot be stressed often enough that announcing new export opportunities is “practically pointless unless primary beef producers can see a resultant improvement in their cattle prices”.

These increased export opportunities have to translate back into better prices for the farmers or they quickly become just irrelevant as far as ICMSA is concerned.  

“This year is going to see increased numbers coming into the cycle and there’s a level of concern about the prices that are going to be available.

“We’re happy to acknowledge new or re-opening markets but we do think that the priority must be a serious ‘step-up’ in terms of live exports and we still think that the Minister and his officials should be looking at a specialist unit within the Department that is focussed on delivering that and working through the obstacles – regulatory, licensing, shipping, financial – that have repeatedly stopped that trade being developed,” said  the ICMSA Livestock Committee Chairperson.

'Factories very anxious for cattle'

Meanwhile, IFA President Joe Healy has called for a strong beef increase from the factories, saying there was a full clear out of retail beef sales over the holiday period and factories are very anxious for cattle again in the New Year.

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He said a significant price increase is well justified based on strong demand and improved market and exchange rate returns.

Joe Healy said paid prices at the factories moved in the right direction over the Christmas/New Year period and €3.80/kg base for steers and €3.90/kg base for heifers was freely available and more being paid in places to secure numbers.

He said prices in our main export market in Britain closed the year in a strong position with R3 steers making €3.62/kg and, at the current exchange rate of 85p/€, this is equivalent to a price return of €4.49/kg including VAT at the new higher rate of 5.4% applicable from January 1st.

Healy said as well as the strong price returns in the UK, the positive change in the Sterling exchange rate from 89p in October/November back to 85p/€ currently is worth an additional 21c/kg in returns and leaves the factories in a strong position to increase prices to farmers.

He said the factories have fallen well behind on price with the Irish price now below the EU average and a very wide gap opening up with prices in our main export market in Britain.

The IFA President said winter finishers need a strong price lift as selling cattle out of sheds involves very high costs and at current prices these farmers are encountering serious losses.

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