Constraint in long-term beef supplies

Beef supplies will remain tight into the long term, but consumer demand remains robust, delegates to the Outlook Conference were told.

Debbie Butcher, senior analyst with Eblex, said the horsegate scandal had initially boosted sales of fresh beef, particularly mince, but that had since fallen back. Unlike the sheep market, beef has not suffered the same volatility, she said, with prices only going in one direction – upwards – until recently.

She said there was likely to be an upturn in supply in the short term: “The census, supported by British Cattle Movement Service (BCMS) data, indicates the potential for a modest increase in short-term slaughter supplies, with increases in male cattle over two years and of one to two years of age. With market conditions in the final quarter of 2013 failing to encourage producers to sell cattle, some extra cattle are expected to come forward in the first half of 2014, so prime cattle slaughterings are forecast to be modestly up on 2013 levels.”

Butcher said fears of imports from Poland undercutting the domestic market remained unfounded. She noted the biggest impact from the Turkish ban on Polish beef had been in the European market, with Polish cow beef product being displaced onto the continent.

She added that imports were likely to be ahead of those in 2013 with increased production from Ireland and Brazil, and the return of beef from Botswana following the resolution of its foot-and-mouth disease problems.

While Brazilian production is increasing, Butcher said global production was going to remain flat with Brazil’s increases negated by falling production in North America.

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