Irish beef imports put pressure on Welsh supply

An increase in Irish beef imports has resulted in a dramatic fall in prices of Welsh steers according to the Welsh red meat body Hybu Cig Cymru (HCC).

In the week ending 3 May 2014, HCC reported that the average deadweight price for steers had fallen by 46p/kg in comparison to last year and 7p/kg less than the fortnight before. According to HCC, this has resulted in a loss of income for farmers of between £170-£200 per steer,

Meanwhile there has been an increase in Irish beef being imported to the UK, which the HCC reports is undercutting Welsh beef at 310p/kg, compared to 352p/kg for Welsh steers.

HCC’s chairman Dai Davies said: “Throughput at Irish export abattoirs is up by 13.6% so far in 2014 compared with the same period in 2013, meaning that more than 50,000 additional prime cattle have entered the food chain.”

The HCC expressed similar concerns at the beginning of the year when Polish beef exports to the rest of the EU increased by 4%.

“It is in everyone’s interests – farmers, processors and retailers – to have a thriving beef industry in this country to satisfy the growing demand for high-quality home-grown beef. All sections of the supply chain should work in harmony to achieve this aim,” said HCC chief executive Gwyn Howells.

“We would encourage retailers to take a strategic view and collaborate with their partners in the UK supply chain to ensure a viable and sustainable long-term future for our beef industry.”

This was echoed by Chris Mallon, national director at the National Beef Association, who said British retailers needed to be more committed to British beef: “I find this very disappointing from British supermarkets. Their commitments to support British beef after the horsemeat scandal were just words to build back consumer confidence and now they can purchase cheaper beef, they will.

“A temporary over-supply in Ireland has caused this reduced price in Irish beef. At the moment it means reduced returns for British farmers, but in the long term it is preventing them re-investing and increasing their herd size,” Mallon added.

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