Strong third country markets should beat export refund cuts

EVERY TIME the Irish beef industry looks like staging some sort of a revival, it seems to get hit on the head again. On Friday, the EU Beef Management Committee cut beef Third Country export refunds on males by 5pc and females by 15pc.However, the Department of Agriculture contends this should not have any significant impact on prices paid to the producer because of stronger EU and Third Country markets.

The IFA's livestock chairman Raymond O'Malley agrees. He says the cuts equate to about 2.5p/lb for both males and females but that the factories should be able to recover such drops from the marketplace.

``There is huge buoyancy in Third Country markets. This partly explains why so many licences are being applied for and, thus, why there has been a move on refunds again.''

Helped by a stronger dollar, the IFA man says that returns from Third Country markets have already improved and could improve more.

Even though over 50pc of steers are still going to Third Countries, the Irish scene should be helped by the EU situation and Britain in particular where the MLC is predicting that steer beef in the UK will hit Stg£1/kg liveweight by Christmas. This works out at over IR98p/lb and would be up about 4p/lb on current prices.

Meanwhile, the Irish delegation which travelled to Egypt last week stayed on a day longer than anticipated to meet the Government Scientific Committee. Abattoirs at both Cairo and Nubaria were also inspected.

A report on the trip is due to be examined by the Department here this week, but no major developments look imminent.

Rumours that trade certainly wouldn't be re-opening until the New Year due to unavailability of boats has been scotched by Alan Dillon of Dillon Livestock Exporters who says that ``if the trade was re-opened, we would have boats up and going within 3-4 days.''

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While some plants were holding off quoting on Friday for today in anticipation of the feared refunds cut, others were saying that no immediate change was anticipated.

Quotes rose at the start of last week and these look set to be maintained today.

The general quote for steers is 84p/lb flat. However, 85p/lb was freely paid last week and even 86p/lb was reported in instances. Heifers are being quoted at up to 84p/lb, with more being paid for good quality animals.

Interesting figures published last week by Department of Agriculture show that the average carcase weights for both steers and heifers slaughtered in the first eight months of the year were well down.

Steer carcase weights fell by 21pc, principally due to the earlier marketing of cattle by producers. Heifer carcase weights were down by 3pc.

The result of the decline in carcase weights is that while cattle supplies at meat plants up to the end of August were 17pc higher, the amount of beef produced was only up 11pc.

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