ICSA beef chairman, Edmund Graham, has castigated efforts by meat plants to cut beef price at a time when UK prices “are flying it.”
He said that the merry go round of price-cutting at every available opportunity cannot continue and that it is time for forward price contracts to ensure that winter finishers can make rational calculations rather than “gamble away their families’ financial well-being”.
“Current efforts to pull price are totally unjustified. Beef prices in the UK and Northern Ireland are showing continuous improvement and this is seen in the fact that fat cows are a much better trade in the marts than in the factories.”
ICSA is calling on farmers to point-blank refuse any reduced quotes.
Market returns are “much” better than a base price being offered of €3.60/kg for steers or €3.65/kg for heifers, the farm group said.
Price increase needed
“Beef finishers need forward contract pricing more than ever. After a disastrous few winters, with zero returns, beef finishers can no longer take the high risks involved,” he said.
“Higher feed costs, as well as all the uncertainty around Brexit and the impact of Covid-19, are all making farmers wary about feeding cattle this winter.”
“Indeed, a lot of finishers are already deciding not to fill their sheds with cattle.”
Fixed-price contracts, he added, would alleviate the problem as farmers would then be able to work out if it is financially viable for them to go ahead and feed livestock over the winter.
“It makes absolutely no sense to invest heavily in stock, feed, machinery and time to get zero return after a long winter.”
“We need to see some level of certainty brought into the equation, with processors taking on some of the risk.”
The reality is, Graham concluded, that at current store prices, winter finishers will need a “significant” increase in price to cover the costs of feeding cattle.