Brazilian beef scandal fails to lift Irish prices (just yet)

Shock waves were sent through global beef markets over the weekend as details emerged of a major scandal involving Brazilian beef producers.

Authorities in Brazil have suspended over 30 government officials in response to allegations that some of the country’s biggest meat processors have been “selling rotten beef and poultry for years”.

The scandal, affecting the world’s biggest beef exporting nation, saw raids occur in almost 200 locations with over 1,000 officers and officials involved in the large scale operation.

Although the quantity of beef imported into the EU from Brazil is limited, Brazil was still the largest exporter of beef into the EU during 2016.

Figures from the European Commission show that some 140,566t of Brazilian beef were imported into the EU during 2016, accounting for 42% of the total volume of beef imported into the EU.

Already, Irish farming representative bodies including the IFA, ICMSA and ICSA, have called for the immediate ban of Brazilian beef from entering the EU.

And, if this is successful, it could be a potential opportunity for Irish beef processors to sell more beef onto the European market.

Is a price rise coming later this week?

However, many procurement managers have opted to keep steer and heifer prices at last week’s levels of 380-385c/kg for steers and 390-395c/kg for heifers.

But some admitted that prices are likely to get a boost as the week progresses, as many buyers try to secure supplies.

IFA National Livestock Chairman, Angus Woods, said tighter numbers have left agents hunting for finished stock.

Feeders need to dig in hard and insist on further price increases, he said, which are desperately needed to lift winter finishers out of loss-making territory.

Meanwhile, cow prices remain largely unchanged from last week, with most factory buyers offering 330-340c/kg for R grade cows, while O and P grade cows are being quoted at 310-315c/kg and 305-310c/kg respectively.

Cattle supplies up 2% in 2017

The cumulative number of cattle slaughtered in Department of Agriculture approved beef export plants is up by 2% so far this year.

Figures from the Department of Agriculture’s beef kill database show that some 335,171 head of cattle have been slaughtered in Irish plants up to the week ending March 12.

This is an increase of 6,817 head on the corresponding period in 2016.

A rise in cow slaughterings (+17% or +9,906 head) accounts for the majority of this increase, while heifer throughput also climbed slightly (+1.2% or +1,169 head) on 2016 levels.

An extra 226 steers have also been slaughtered so far this year. But aged and young bull throughputs are down by 10.3% (-5,680 head) and 15.3% (-774 head) respectively.

Year-on-year beef kill changes:
  • Young bulls: 49,382 head (-5,680 head or -10.3%)
  • Bulls: 4,295 head (-774 head or -15.3%)
  • Steers: 113,106 head (+226 head or +0.2%)
  • Cows: 68,267 head (+9,906 head or +17%)
  • Heifers: 96,323 head (+1,169 head or +1.2%)
  • Total: 3365,151 head (+6,817 head or +2.1%)

Main markets

According to Bord Bia, the UK beef trade eased slightly last week on the back of relatively strong supplies.

Cattle prices from the AHDB show little change with British R4L steers averaging 360p/kg or 411c/kg, during the week ending March 11.

British R3 heifers made the equivalent of 410c/kg, while heifers in the North returned an average price of 400c/kg.

Meanwhile in France, Bord Bia reports that the market remains unchanged with difficulties ongoing for imported product.

Demand has slowed for most products, it says, including offal and traditional cuts, while domestically-produced products have performed best.

The latest R3 young bull price made (on average) 375c/kg, while the O3 cow price was up 2c/kg to 314c/kg.