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Is the gap between NI and ROI beef prices tightening?

Base quotes from the major NI beef processors held steady this week, according to the Livestock and Meat Commission (LMC).

The majority of beef factories quoted in the region of 314-316p/kg for in-spec U-3 grading steers and heifers.

Quotes for good quality O+3 grade cows ranged from 224- 230p/kg. “This steadying of quotes has followed on from several weeks of downward pressure on the beef trade due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.”

“Quotes are expected to improve for all types of cattle early next week with reports of a tightening in cattle availability for slaughter.”

Throughput

Throughput of prime cattle in NI plants last week totalled 6,209 head an increase of 341 head when compared to the previous week.

This is also an increase of 674 head from the 5,535 prime cattle processed in the same week in 2019.

Cow throughput in NI last week increased by 270 head to 1,342 from the previous week; this is an increase of 258 cows compared to the corresponding week last year when 1,084 cows were processed, the LMC added.

Imports of prime cattle from ROI for direct slaughter in NI plants last week totalled 129 head with 11 cows also imported.

For the fourth consecutive week, there have been no cattle imports from GB for direct slaughter in NI. Meanwhile, cattle exports from NI for slaughter in ROI plants consisted of five prime cattle and 44 cows last week and for the fifth consecutive week, no cattle made the journey from NI to GB for direct slaughter.

Decline in beef trade

The LMC said that the almost complete loss of the foodservice market and devaluation of the fifth-quarter, in particular, have been key drivers behind the decline in the beef trade and while increased retail demand has been welcomed, it has not been enough to offset the loss of other market outlets.

The average R3 steer price in NI last week was 322.4p/kg, back 0.7p/kg from the previous week. The R3 steer price has fallen by 20p/kg from the first week of 2020 when the R3 steer price was 342.5p/kg. This decline by 20p/kg accounts for a £70 decline in the value of a 350kg steer carcase, the LMC pointed out.

“However it is worth noting that before the onset of Covid-19 beef producers in NI were already experiencing severe profitability challenges with deadweight prices already under pressure as a result of strong supplies of prime cattle for slaughter, heavier carcase weights and relatively weak consumer demand.” the LMC concluded.

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