HCC reveals fall in beef prices

According to Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) and Quality Meat Scotland (QMS), an increase in the UK’s supply of prime cattle and an uplift in imports, alongside subdued consumer demand, have caused a fall in beef prices in recent months.

The HCC’s figures show that the average deadweight price for steers in the week ending 19 April was down 30p on the previous year at 359p per kg. Prices for heifers and young bulls followed similar patterns.  

In the first quarter of 2014 the number of prime cattle passing through UK abattoirs was up by 1% on last year at 6,000 head, with most of the increase coming in March. Meanwhile, purchases have also dropped in this year’s first quarter according to data from Kantar Worldpanel, with a 7% drop in the total volume sold compared to last year.

Imports increased in the first two months of the year, especially from Ireland and the Netherlands.

John Richards, industry and market information officer at HCC, said: “The recent fall in producer prices can be explained when combining the elements of increased supply, both from home and abroad, with a reduced consumer demand.”

Quality Meat Scotland presented figures showing that, in Scotland, the abattoir kill in March was 2.5% higher than 12 months ago, with in increase in carcase weights adding to the increased volume.

However, HCC’s Richards said it wasn’t all bad news: “While these figures may seem concerning it should be noted that beef remained the strongest-performing red meat at retail level, worth over half the total red meat volume sold.”

Stuart Ashworth, head of economic services with Quality Meat Scotland (QMS), also said that domestic cattle supplies are set to tighten in the long term, due to lower beef calf registrations in 2012 and 2013.

Ashworth added: “The recent news that wages have moved faster than consumer prices over the past 12 months may mean that consumer confidence will improve in the coming months.” 

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