Farming

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Irish beef second costliest in Europe

Irish beef prices have climbed to the point where they are the second highest in Europe.

Cattle prices here are now 108pc of the European average, according to the latest analysis carried out by Bord Bia.

The 10pc surge in prices here over the past 12 months has started to impact on our exports to premium markets such as Italy.

Ireland exported 8,000t less beef to Italy last year compared to 2010, and sales are back by at least another 10pc this year, said Bord Bia's beef manager, Joe Burke.

This has affected trade for premium young bulls that processors such as Kepak specialised in over recent years.

However, Mr Burke was confident that factory prices would not soften too much before the end of the year.

He made the prediction despite the fact that there are an estimated 140,000hd of extra stock coming on stream at the processing plants this year.

Mr Burke said the fact that the main outlet for Irish beef is Britain, where prices remain 7pc higher than the Irish average, was the key factor underpinning Irish prices.

"With grass growth so slow this year and cattle not really thriving in the fields yet, there is likely to be a large rump of stock coming onto the market in the latter half of the year.

"But even if the weekly kill hits 38,000 per week, I think there are still enough premium outlets for our stock.

KILL

"Remember that even though we're predicting a national kill of 1.55m this year, that's still well back on the numbers that we were doing over the past 10 years," said Mr Burke.

Meanwhile, the latest CSO figures show that the number of cattle slaughtered in April this year was 15.2pc higher than the same month last year.

Some 127,200 cattle were slaughtered in April 2013, compared to 110,400hd in April 2012.

CSO statistics also show that cattle slaughterings for the period January to April this year were 9.7pc higher than the same period last year.

Bord Bia beef market expert Joe Burke said the figures showed there had been a recovery in the national cattle herd, driven by lower exports and increased calf numbers. The 2012 slaughter figures were the lowest in 15 years, he added.

Irish Independent