Good week, bad week for farming

COMMENT: The tremendous news generated by the dairy sector over recent days has been tempered by the more than challenging nature of beef prices during the same period.

Nobody can expect the entire farming industry to be enjoying a win:win scenario all of the time. However, the fact that there has been no real lift in finished cattle prices during the run up to Christmas is hard to take.

There is no doubt that the strength of Sterling at the present time should be encouraging the prospects of Irish redmeat processors. The Euro was trading at 84 pence Sterling at close of play last Friday evening.  Surely this should make Irish beef imports on to the UK market more attractive. Moreover, indigenous finished cattle prices in Britain have remained extremely strong over recent weeks.

All of this is prompting farmers to, yet again, ask the fundamental question: how do the processors set the prices they pay for cattle on a week-to-week basis?

Organisations, such as the Irish Farmers Association (IFA), are often asking how the supermarkets how they go about their pricing activities: but surely it’s time for all the various stakeholder groups to put it up to the plants on this fundamental issue as well. Sounds to me like a priority job for the new IFA president.

The need for the Irish redmeat industry to add further value to the range of products it offers the market is obvious, as is the requirement to communicate more effectively with farmers regarding the types of cattle that best meet commercial market requirements – now and on an ongoing basis.

That said, beef finishers are also smarting at what they regard as the continuing high cost of concentrate feeds. Yes, meal prices have come down slightly over recent weeks – but not by as much as many farmers had anticipated would be the case.  But maybe, all of this will change for the better come the New Year.

All of this brings clearly into focus the need for each of the food processing industries to deliver sustainable prices at farmgate level on an ongoing basis. Earlier this week AgriLand listened intently to the comments made by Lakeland Dairies’ CEO Michael Hanley, while speaking at a seminar in Belfast  and we sensed from the comments made that the agri-food sectors can look forward to a sustained period of stronger food retail prices.

Hopefully, this means that the days of cheap food are over. This, in turn, should allow everyone involved in the industry enjoy a larger slice of a bigger cake. Or, at least, that’s the theory.