‘Beef prices must increase after positive sterling change’ – IFA

The Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) is calling for an increase in beef prices after a positive change in the euro-sterling exchange rate since the start of 2019.

According to Angus Woods, the association’s national livestock chairman, the 3p increase in the strength of the sterling – moving from 90p/€1 to 87p/€1 – equates to a 15c/kg increase in returns for factories here.

This increase should be filtered down to farmers amid the “alarming financial situation” they face, argued Woods.

Woods called for an “urgent response” from all factories, as well as the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, to offset the “severe losses” he said beef farmers are experiencing.

“Farmers with young bulls fit and ready for sale are finding it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to sell their stock. They are being pushed back and back by the factories and being offered discount prices of up to 40c/kg or up to €180/head on some stock,” said Woods.

He also argued that winter finishers are facing “financial ruin” unless factories adopt a “more flexible and supportive approach”, and prioritise young bulls.

Brexit beef losses

Woods went on to argue for Minister Creed to take steps to offset the losses farmers would accrue in the event of Britain leaving the European Union without a trade deal.

According to Woods, the minister’s “wait and see approach” is hurting confidence in the industry and undermining the market, saying: “Livestock farmers feel the minister is walking away from the sector.

Cattle prices are down 20c-25c/kg on this time last year. For every 5c/kg change on the price, Minster Creed needs to secure €20/head additional direct payment compensation.

According to Woods, the EU Commissioner for Agriculture Phil Hogan said after a meeting with the IFA, that a package of measures would be available to help farmers deal with Brexit, which will include direct payments and market intervention.

Better news for lamb

There is better news where lamb is concerned, with prices increasing strongly over the last two weeks, according to the IFA’s national sheep chairman Sean Dennehy.

Dennehy highlighted that prices have generally been between the €5.50 to €5.60/kg mark, with some factories paying up to €5.70/kg.

This is because, Dennehy argued, of the scarcity of supply, with factories actively chasing lambs.

Also, ewes are making more that €3/kg at the moment, Dennehy said.