Quotes and prices slowly moving in the right direction
Benjy the bull didn't look like he had a great future when it became obvious that he wasn't interested in fulfilling his primary role. Then Sam Simon of The Simpsons fame came to his rescue and Benjy was set to see out his days in clover, until it was revealed over the weekend that he now faces the big snip.
Was this a good or bad outcome for Benjy? Beef farmers are also unsure as to whether the blockades and the results from the forum meetings are good or bad. The political slogan of 'much done-more to do' springs to mind for most.
The quotes and the prices, while not breaking any records are moving in the right direction, with another increase of 5c/kg obvious for most categories. Despite another big kill of 36,600hd last week, steer quotes are generally around the 385c/kg this week.
While most of them are also being bought at this figure, tough sellers are securing base prices of up to 390c/kg with a number of plants mentioned as willing to pay this.
The heifer quote is more often than not at 390c/kg but 395c/kg is there to be got. Finishers with numbers are holding out for a base of 400c/kg at this stage. The best I heard for young bulls was 395c/kg for a mix of mainly U grades and some Rs.
This was paid in a few factories, while heavy bulls secured 390c/kg. In the main the Us are selling for 380-395, while the Rs are making from 370-385c/kg. O grades are selling for 345-355c/kg.
The cull cow trade is barely holding firm, with the best of them moving at 350-360c/kg. R grades are selling for 340-350c/kg, the Os range from 320-330c/kg, while prices for the P grades vary from 310-320c/kg.
IFA livestock chairman Henry Burns said that factory agents claim that farmers won't sell unless they can offer a base of €4.00/kg.
"Agents are saying they simply can't get the cattle and the price will have to kick on again this week," he claimed. He added that British cattle prices are up 34c/kg since August.
"Even though Irish prices have increased 20-30c/kg in recent weeks, they have a long way to go to make a greater impact on closing the unprecedented price gap between Ireland and Britain," he said.
ICSA beef chairman Edmond Phelan has welcomed the news that the EU Agriculture Committee is drawing up evidence to confirm that a cartel does exist in the Irish meat processing sector.
"Despite various denials, there is a firm belief among farmers that meat processors are operating a cartel, and ICSA welcomes the efforts by MEPs Matt Carthy and Marian Harkin to provide conclusive evidence to this effect," said Mr Phelan.
"The similarity in quotes across the range of factories on a given day, the dominance of the 'big three', and the lack of transparency in relation to the fifth quarter have all contributed to farmers' suspicions that a cartel exists, and it is high time this was investigated.
The control of rendering and, increasingly, feedlots must also be examined," he added.
Bord Bia said that steady demand and some tightening in supply continues to underpin the cattle trade. There has seen some improvement in trade across our key export markets. Prices have increased over the past week across most categories. The majority of steers were purchased at a base price of between €3.80-3.85/kg on the Quality Payment System. Heifers were being purchased on average between €3.85-3.90/kg.
These prices exclude the €0.12/kg bonus which is payable on in-spec QA animals. Prices paid for O grade cull cows were generally making from €3.10-3.25/kg.
Cumulative supplies for the year to date are 10pc or 132,000 head above the figures for the corresponding period last year.
In Britain, reported cattle prices from the AHDB increased with R4L grade steers averaging at 481c/kg including VAT deadweight. Demand has seen some increase, particularly for round cuts, with retail volumes rising on the back of seasonal promotions.
The market in France remained steady on the back of an on-going promotional campaign.
Retail promotions are taking place across a range of cuts such as tongues, featherblades and shanks. The R3 young bull price was up 4c to €3.82/kg and the O3 cow price was down 5c to €3.15/kg. Little change was reported in the Italian market. R3 young bulls were up 12c to the equivalent of €3.85/kg inclusive of VAT. The O3 cow price was down 2c to €2.54/kg.
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