‘It’s no good giving away beef now only to regret it later’

Beef farmers have been called on to “insist on a minimum base price of €3.70 for steers and €3.75 for heifers immediately” by the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA).

Making the calls, ICSA beef chairman Edmund Graham said: “We have to begin the push to get beef price back above €4/kg.

“If we can’t do this in 2020, we will never do it, given tightening supplies, improving markets in the UK and Europe and the demand for animal protein in China arising from swine fever,” the chairman said.

Accusing the meat industry of “making a lot out of the temporary downward blip in the Chinese market”, Graham said that this blip “does not justify prices being almost as low as last autumn” when multiple factors “were all against farmers”.

Farmers need to be aware that prices will inevitably rise, and it is no good giving away beef now only to regret it later. No farmer should accept the first offer from a factory at the moment.

“The price differential with the UK is now running at around 50c/kg for steer beef – and this cannot be justified,” he stressed.

“We have a long way to go if we are to see any sort of parity with UK prices. Average quotes this week of €3.65 for steers and €3.70 for heifers just don’t cut the mustard.”

Graham advised farmers to watch out for “often misleading information” regarding factory demand for cattle supplies.

Stories about factories being booked out until the end of February are mostly just that – stories.

“It’s a form of mind game so farmers will take what they’re given. The advice is not to give into that; supplies are tight so sell hard,” Graham concluded.