23 October 1998

Intervention gloom

CHANGES to beef intervention rules announced recently are too little too late, according to the Livestock and Meat Commission in Northern Ireland.

More generous terms, granted to the province and the Irish Republic, come into effect at the end of the month. They include a 20kg increase in carcass weight to 360kg, an increase in processors margin from 10 ecu/100kg (7p) to 14 ecu/100kg (9.8p), and the inclusion of O4 grades. But the move will do little to shore up prices in the province, says economist David Ritchie.

Prices have been below the 146p/kg deadweight "safety net" level, when Brussels is obliged to accept intervention offers. A small tender of 225t was accepted last week. But cattle are in relatively short supply so prices are now rising slowly, and the climb is likely to continue as marketings tail off, making intervention less attractive.

However, the changes are likely to help producers in the Irish republic, where intervention has been playing a bigger role, says Mr Ritchie.