The announcement by the UK government of a revised timetable for sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) checks and controls “removes uncertainty in our key export for the next number of months”, according to the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA).

However, an “unacceptable price gap of 12c/kg” must now be closed between the latest Prime Export Benchmark price and the Irish Prime Composite price – indicators of prices being paid abroad and at home respectively.

Commenting on the move made by the UK government last week – which will see a six-month extension put on the current time schedule – IFA Beef Committee chairman Brendan Golden said:

“Factories can continue to access the market without the uncertainty of the impact of additional checks and controls that were scheduled for April and July.”

Describing this as a very positive development for beef sales, the chairman stressed that this clarity “must be returned in higher prices to farmers”.

Reinforcing this point, he said that this means “no new impediments” in beef exports to the UK for the coming months, adding the “strong demand for beef in that market must come through in beef prices”.

The additional access to the Japanese market for minced beef is a positive development for beef exports and must translate into higher returns, he noted.

Golden said numbers are tight, with UK supplies predicted to be down 5% this year and beef sales in supermarkets continuing to show both volume and value growth. Prices in the UK are strengthening, he added.

“Easter will increase demand in supermarkets and the gradual re-opening of the food service sector as vaccinations are rolled out will further increase demand for beef,” he said.

The latest Prime Export Benchmark price shows continued growth in our key markets for beef, rising by a further 1c/kg to €3.83/kg. The Irish Prime Composite price rose by 2c/kg for the same period to €3.71/kg.

The chairman said this still leaves an “unacceptable price gap of 12c/kg” which must be closed.

Claiming that factories “have no excuses left”, Golden said:

“The uncertainty of access issues to the UK market has been removed, demand is strong and prices are rising across our key markets.

He said factories are paying €3.80/kg for steers, up to €3.90/kg for heifers and are prepared to do deals for larger numbers above these levels including paying increased breed bonuses.

Young bulls are making €3.70/kg to €3.95/kg, cows are making €3.00/kg to €3.50/kg depending on grade.

Golden said farmers should demand immediate price increases to reflect the strength of the market; the removal of Brexit uncertainty; and the growing demand for beef.