19 May 2000

Beef subsidies slashed

BEEF market managers in Brussels have slashed the level of export subsidies for sales to Third countries, as they continue to take advantage of the weakness of the k against the $.

Refunds for live animals, heifer beef and processed products have been cut by 20%, while breeding cattle and steer beef are down 15%.

For the UK, the direct impact will be minimal, with no shipments going outside the EU. "But it could result in more Irish and Continental beef looking for a home in the internal market, which could affect our prices," says Meat and Livestock Commission economist, Jane Connor.

But according to the Irish food board, Bord Bia, if there is any impact it will not be felt immediately.

"Cattle traders are able to pre-fix their refunds for two months in advance, so the new rates will not come into play until July," said a spokesman.

What the effect on cattle values will be then will depend on the extent to which world prices come up to compensate for the lower refunds.

"It is hard to know. This weeks cut is worth about 18-20p/kg. But it has come at a time when supplies are tight anyway. Yarded cattle have now been cleared and it will be some time before grass-fed animals are ready," said the spokesman. &#42