Sluggish UK retail beef sales hits cattle prices

Beef prices have eased in the UK in recent weeks largely fuelled by subdued domestic retail demand, according to EBLEX.

Reported prices show steer prices in the UK were back 3p/kg in Northern England and 5p/kg in the midlands and Wales.

There was a sharper decline in heifer prices, with an average price decline of 4p/kg across the UK for R3 grades. Southern England recorded a 10p/kg drop in the R3 heifer price, with a 5p/kg decline in the Midlands.

According to the Livestock and Meat Commission (LMC) in Northern Ireland its R3 steer price remains close to equivalent prices in England, where the average is around 360p/kg.

Scottish prices are somewhat higher at 370p/kg. R3 heifer prices in Northern Ireland are about 5p/kg lower than those in Northern England and the midlands, but 2p/kg higher than equivalent prices in southern England.

EBLEX says with reports starting to suggest that waiting times at processors could be emerging, unavoidably, concerns about the evolution of farmgate prices will be developing.

This is especially after the decline in the summer last year when the supply/demand balance was very unfavourable for producers, it says.

However, it says in contrast to last year, supplies in the UK and Ireland will both be lower this year. Which, in the broad picture, offers support to the market.

However, there is also downside risk, according to EBLEX particularly for the shorter term, presented from the current sluggish retail side of the equation.

The upcoming Easter holiday offers some potential to deliver additional retail demand, although it says this could turn out to be tempered by the fact that most promotional activity is likely to be on lamb.

Exchange rate developments last week meant that Irish farmgate prices were lower in sterling terms again last week.  R3 steer prices averaged 288p/kg, 6p/kg lower than the previous week. There was a similar decline in R3 heifer and young bull prices.

According to the LMC this is generally explained by the weaker euro, with steer and heifer prices generally stable in euro terms.

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