An online meeting is set to be held for beef farmers on the topic of “unjustified price divergence”, according to the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA).

The latest market price information clearly justifies beef price increases, IFA president Tim Cullinan has asserted, highlighting that the Bord Bia Price tracker shows the Prime Export Benchmark price increasing by 4c/kg to €3.80/kg, while the Prime Irish Composite price dropped by 3c/kg to €3.68/kg.

The president said this level of price differential and divergence is unjustified and factory prices must increase.

The IFA is set to hold an online meeting next Tuesday, March 9, at 8:30pm for beef farmers, “highlighting the seriousness of the situation” on beef farms.

Cullinan said: “Our beef processors must increase prices in line with the positive market conditions that exist for beef as clearly shown in the Export Benchmark Price which reflects the market prices in our key UK and EU markets for beef.

“Farmers are very angry at the cynical and unjustified price cutting that has gone over the past few weeks,” he added.

IFA National Livestock Committee chairman Brendan Golden said market conditions are strong in Ireland’s key export markets and supplies of finished cattle are extremely tight, a trend that is expected to continue.

He said Bord Bia predicts the numbers of cattle available for processing to reduce by between 60,000 and 80,000 for the year and UK supplies of prime cattle are projected to be down 5% for the year.

Continuing, the chairman claimed that sales of beef in supermarkets have performed very well throughout the Covid-19 restrictions and is off-setting the loss of the food service sector.

He said demand is expected to increase as lockdown restrictions ease with the roll-out of the vaccination programmes and the food service sector starts to return to normal.

In the intervening period, with Easter just a month away, “demand will increase for beef in supermarkets and with supplies remaining tight creates favourable market conditions”, he added.

Golden stressed that factories must reflect the full value of the market place in prices paid to farmers.

He said steers are making €3.75/kg and heifers €3.80/kg this week, with higher deals for larger lots and increased breed bonuses available despite lower quotes from some factories. Factory agents “are very active in marts for forward store and finished cattle, highlighting the demand that exists for beef”.

The chairman maintained that farmers should continue to reject the lower quoted prices to maximise returns.

The cow trade is starting at €3.00/kg for P grades and moving to €3.50/kg for better quality R and U grading cows, Young bulls are ranging from €3.60 to €3.85/kg, he concluded.