Pressures on UK beef price

UK beef prices are coming under pressure from a range of factors, experts in Scotland have claimed.

According to Quality Meat Scotland (QMS), a number of issues, including currency exchange rates, were impacting on the beef sector, with the strong sterling increasing the gap between Irish and European prices.

Stuart Ashworth, head of economic services with QMS, said: “Despite Irish producers getting 6% more euros from the market than last year, the UK price is 13.5% higher in euros, so the gap has widened. However, because of currency movements, while the UK price is around 2-3% lower in sterling, Irish prices have fallen by 7-8%.”

Latest statistics from January show UK beef exports declining, while imports, including Irish meat, increased, boosting beef volumes on the UK market.
“While some of this would have been used to refill the supply chain after good Christmas trade, once the supply chain was fully restocked, pressure was exerted on prices from a well-supplied market,” Ashworth said.
While prices started the year looking positive, prime cattle values have fallen in the past six weeks, with the average price around 2-3% lower than a year ago, and the number of cattle being slaughtered tightening.
He added: “During February, Scottish abattoirs handled 3.8% fewer prime cattle than last year, compared with Northern Ireland at 2.5% fewer and England and Wales at 2% more.
“However, a bigger influence here is that carcase weights continue to be higher than last year, by around 1.5%. The result is that, despite the number of animals beginning to tighten, the volume of beef they produce is continuing to run ahead of last year.”   

A further problem for the sector has been the slowdown in demand for manufacturing beef, which has impacted on the value of forequarter meat in the wholesale markets.

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