We're producing the world's best beef so why are prices so low?

Martin Gleeson and PJ Creggs, Roscommon take in the action at Tuam Mart's 54th annual Cattle show and sale. Photo: Ray Ryan
Martin Gleeson and PJ Creggs, Roscommon take in the action at Tuam Mart's 54th annual Cattle show and sale. Photo: Ray Ryan
Martin Coughlan

Martin Coughlan

The IFA had spent the weeks leading up to last Wednesdays' Beef Forum meeting criticising the factories on prices.

It was a surprise then to learn that they decided two days before the event not to attend.

Beef finishers were hoping the IFA would take possession of the talks table and not relinquish it until the factories had been made to answer the hard questions.

Questions about price, about the strength of the British market, questions about the grid to mention a few.

If the factories didn't answer those questions, the IFA and the other farm organisations should have been prepared to stay at that table, all night and the next day if needs be, to get their message across.

However, the IFA leadership were focused on their €200/hd suckler cow campaign.

In effect, the Minister and the processing sector got off scot free on what exactly they intend doing on prices.

Last Friday, though, the ICSA took the fight directly to the factories, with their protest outside the ABP plant in Clones stopping all traffic in and out of the plant.

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That action at least gave factory bosses something to think about.

By yesterday morning, those with cattle to sell had shifted their interest from protests to the more immediate problem of attempting to maximise returns from the factories.

And, surprisingly, despite the continuing high kills, there are indications that prices are starting to stir, all be it only slightly.

Last week saw up to €3.80/kg given as a base price for bullocks, with some heifers rising to €3.90/kg. The general run of prices, however, remains static for the third week in succession with bullocks being quoted at €3.70-3.75/kg and heifers on €3.80-3.85/kg.

Prices for bulls under 24 months see U grades on €3.95-3.85/kg, with Rs making from €3.75-3.80/kg while Os continue on €3.70-3.60/kg.

Heavy bulls

I had reports yesterday of heavy bulls being bought flat by one plant at €3.85/kg across the board.

On the cow front, yesterday's quotes indicated that a smattering of 5-10c/kg extra had worked its way into the system, most notably among the P grades where P+3s are now commanding €3.00/kg.

At the top end R grades should get you somewhere from €3.40-3.30/kg, with Os on €3.15-3.10/kg.

The Department of Agriculture's Meat Market report for the week ending September 30 shows the Irish beef price for that week (excluding VAT) as being €3.69/kg as opposed to the EU 15 average of €3.71/kg.

Both of those figures are a long way short of the British average of €4.24/kg or the North's €4.02/kg, with Germany averaging €3.84/kg.

Finally, I don't buy the MII argument that because Irish beef prices were above the EU average for much of this year that is supposed to make us feel better when they slip below it.

We're producing the world's best beef and selling it into the world's most profitable market.

Where's the money?

Indo Farming