The differential between UK and Irish beef prices has returned to levels not seen since the beef crisis, with Irish steers making €350 less than UK equivalent animals.

Cattle prices last week were generally back in euro terms and, coupled with a weakening of the euro against sterling, resulted in prices showing a marked decline in sterling terms, according to the Livestock and Meat Commission (LMC) in Northern Ireland.

The Pound Sterling to euro (GBP/EUR) exchange rate rose to yet another fresh seven-year high this week. The Pound Sterling to euro (GBP/EUR) exchange rate is currently trading in the region of £1.4133.

Bord Bia says the majority of steers were being purchased recently at a base price of around €4.10/kg on the Quality Payment System while heifers were being purchased on average at a base of €4.15/kg with selected lots achieving higher prices.

These prices exclude bonuses payable on QA animals. Prices paid for O grade cull cows are generally making between €3.45/kg to €3.60/kg.

According to the LMC the average R3 heifer price in Northern Ireland last week in euro terms was 490.3c/kg, 87.4c/kg higher than the EU average price which was 402.9c/kg.

Meanwhile, it says the R3 heifer price in the Republic of Ireland last week was 413.7c/kg, 76.6c/kg lower than the equivalent price in NI or €245 on a 320kg R3 grade carcase.

This accounts for a widening in the differential since the start of the year by €30 which is an increase of 14%.

In Britain, Bord Bia says reported cattle prices from the AHDB have firmed with GB R4L grade steers averaging at Stg 368.3 p/kg equivalent to 510.45 c/kg d for the week ended March 7.

On an equivalent carcass this price differential would man a price gap of €350.

According to EBLEX there are now fears some recent signs of a slowdown in the British beef trade could be attributed to increased shipments of beef from the Republic of Ireland due to the attractiveness of the sterling/euro exchange rate.