Narrowing of beef price to have little impact on cross-border trade – LMC

The narrowing of the Irish and Northern Irish beef price will have little impact on the cross-border beef trade, according to the Livestock and Meat Commission (LMC).

Recent figures published by the LMC show that the price difference between Irish and Northern Irish beef stood at just 9c/kg during the week ending February 28.

The lower price gap coupled with a weaker Sterling was expected to make Irish cattle exports to the North more attractive, but according to the LMC’s Economist Seamus McMenamin, this is not the case.

McMenamin said that the volume of Irish cattle imported into the North is likely to remain small in 2016, as Northern Irish processors use Irish beef to maintain beef throughput.

Most of the Irish cattle slaughtered in Northern Ireland are returned back across the border in carcass or cut form.

“The butcher trade also accounts for a very small percentage of Irish beef processed,” he said.

The LMC representative said Irish cattle must spend a 90 residency period in the North to qualify for the Northern Ireland Quality Assurance mark.

This has a negative impact on the number of beef cattle that are imported across the border, he said, as animals purchased for direct slaughter do not qualify for either the North’s quality assurance scheme of the Red Tractor label.

The lack of labeling limits the number of retail markets Irish beef slaughtered in Northern Ireland can be sold into, he said.

Like Ireland, McMenamin also said that cattle throughput in Northern Ireland is expected to increase this year, as there were an additional 20,000 calves born last year.

He said the majority of these calves are bred from the suckler herd, but Angus and Hereford calf registrations have also increased.

McMenamin said that this increase has occurred as suckler herd in the north starts to show some recovery in growth.

He said that the sucker cow herd in the North increased by 3% in December 2015 on the year before.

This expected increase in throughput means that Northern Irish beef processors will not have to cross the border to purchase cattle to maintain throughput, he said.

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