Concerns expressed over beef price drop

The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) Scotland’s livestock committee has revealed plans to extend its programme of drop-in sessions at store sales, in response to growing concerns about the beef market. 

The union recognised that beef prices were falling sharply, with reports of waiting times of more than five weeks to get cattle into some abattoirs. This is reflective of problems in previous years and is hitting those selling prime cattle, while causing concerns for those with store animals to sell in the coming weeks.

Scottish steers hit an average deadweight price of 328p per kg last week, compared to 359p/kg in the same week of the previous year. Based on an average carcase weight of 370kg, prime animals are making almost £115 less per head than a year ago.

“Farmers are rightly worried about the falling prices,” said NFU Scotland livestock chairman Charlie Adam.

“We are seeing prices back more than 10% year-on-year for both the store and finished markets. With late support payments and some challenging weather, it is a tough time for Scotland’s cattle farmers.

“There are certain areas in the Scottish beef market that must be addressed. The Scottish, UK and Irish prices are all very similar. This must make imports less attractive and our beef more competitive in Europe, but it also shows the urgent need to re-establish the premium that is normally attached to the Scotch brand.”

Adam also highlighted that it was obvious retailers were fighting to regain competitiveness and increase their margins. This resulted in the amount they were paying for beef being pushed lower, although this did not appear to equate to a better deal for consumers as beef prices at a retail level appeared to be static. Subsequently, he said, beef producers must secure a fairer share of the margins being made on beef.

“NFU Scotland’s livestock committee will be looking at the beef situation at their meeting in May,” continued Adam.

“That will include a discussion on the potential benefits of having industry-agreed terms and conditions in the Scottish beef trade. A similar proposal is already under discussion in England and Wales.”

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