Farm Ireland

Monday 22 January 2018

Gap between Irish and UK beef price trebles

The cost to farmers of the widening price gap between British and Irish cattle returns amounted to at least €52m
The cost to farmers of the widening price gap between British and Irish cattle returns amounted to at least €52m

Martin Ryan

The gap between British and Irish cattle returns has trebled since last February.

Despite the fact that half of all Irish beef is exported into British markets, Irish farmers were paid an average of €188 less per 350kg steer carcase during 2013.

The price difference for heifers was significantly lower at €100 per 350kg carcase.

However, the price difference doubled during the last four months, traditionally the most important slaughter period when cattle are sold off grass.

The cost to farmers of the widening price gap amounted to at least €52m for the 347,000 slaughtered last back-end.

Farmer resentment towards the meat processors is building as the price differential reaches its highest point in over a decade.

Actual average prices paid to producers by the beef processors, compiled by the Department of Agriculture, show that the autumn steer price differential widened by nearly €150/hd and €136/hd on heifers, excluding VAT, compared to the first eight months of the year.

For the first eight months of 2013, Irish processors paid an average of 91pc of the British price for steers.

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This compared to just 83pc for the last four months of the year.

Heifers fared better, achieving 97pc of the British price up until September, although prices dropped here to 87pc for the September-December period.


The cost of the widening difference on the combined steer and heifer kill for the four months of autumn amounted to €49.8m, based on the actual kill figures and an average carcass weight of 360kg for steers and 330kg for heifers.

When the VAT refund of 4.8pc that unregistered farmers are paid is added, the total amounts to €52.2m.

In the month of June Irish heifer prices exceeded the British equivalent by 0.4pc but slipped back to 86pc in September.

There was a total of 222,898 steers and 124,052 heifers supplied to the factories over the four peak months of the year for slaughterings.

The national cattle kill increased by 7pc in 2013, compared with 2012, with over 95,000 additional animals slaughtered. However, the increased number was still 9pc lower than the 2010 kill, which came to 1.64m head.

The main increase in figures compared with 2012 came in the form of a 13pc increase in steer numbers.

Young bulls were back by over 10pc, cows were up by 11pc and heifers were up by 6pc on 2012.

Irish Independent