Cattle throughput at Irish meat plants will fall by between 120,000-150,000 head this year, according to Bord Bia marketing specialist Joe Burke.

He also said that finished beef cattle numbers in Ireland increased by 10% in 2014, which contributed to the 3.5% year-on-year increase in beef output witnessed across Europe during this period.

“Across Europe beef volumes are anticipated to fall by approximately 1% during the next 12 months,” he told the Bord Bia Meat Seminar.

“Irish cattle prices fell by an average of 37c/kg in 2014. The average price in paid in 2013 was €4.07/kg: the equivalent figure last year was €3.70/kg.

“And, it is this tightening of supplying that is helping to drive farmgate cattle prices forward at the present time. While UK and Irish beef returns have improved recently, the reality is that Continental prices remain well below this time last year.”

Commenting on international consumption trends Bord Bia’s Mark Zieg confirmed that Irish beef export totalled 530,00t in 2014, valued at €2.06 billion tonnes.

“This constitutes a 13% year-on-year increase in volume terms but only a 1% increase in financial terms,” he said.

“European beef consumption trends remain sluggish, falling by 0.4% in 2014 and predicted to drop back by a further 0.7% during the next 12 months.

“In total contrast, beef consumption figures are increasing significantly in Asia, South Africa and the Middle East. These trends must be set against the continuing downwards movement in global beef production levels.

“Total world output levels have fallen by some 470,000 tonnes over the past three years. However, in the US alone we have seen falls in production of approximately 1.2 million tonnes during the same period.

“This factor, in tandem with the significant downturn in Australian beef exports, has served to reduce the market impact of the enhanced levels of beef production achieved by Brazil.”