By James Garner
THE NATIONAL Beef Association is calling for deadweight beef prices to be published a week in advance.
This follows another turbulent week on the beef markets, which saw last weeks deadweight prices fail to reflect gains in the liveweight market.
With the Continents beef markets still clouded in the shadow of BSE, a volatile home market jumped up 5.5p/kg on the week, ending at 90.1p/kg on Saturday – the highest all cattle liveweight price average since the crisis began.
But deadweight prices have been slow to react, says the NBAs Robert Forster, who reckons there is a need for greater transparency from processors.
Adopting the Republic of Irelands system of publishing last weeks cattle deadweight prices in the farming media would be a welcome step to openness, he says, although publishing next weeks prices would be better.
This week, Mr Forster says that dwt prices on R4L steers vary from a low of 160p/kg at Midland Meat Packers, Crick, Northamptonshire, to a top base price of 168p/kg for the same supermarket-spec animal at St Merryn Meats in Cornwall.
Neither price reflects last weeks liveweight prices in England and Wales, which he reckons should have been 190p-195p/kg dwt for an R4L grade animal, about 20p-30p/kg higher than it was.
This weeks top deadweight price for a farm-assured, single suckled, once-moved animal is 178p/kg dwt at St Merryn Meats.
This demonstrates the confusion surrounding the home beef market and processors are recognising the advantage of “hiding prices in a fog”, he says.
MMPs commercial director Rob Mears responded that the company has a reputation of being fair, open and transparent.
Its too early to note any trends, says MLCs chief beef economist Duncan Sinclair.
He believes the market might have been somewhat distorted last week because of the abundance of primestock shows.
Some producers may have held cattle back from the week before when deadweight prices plummeted due to BSE problems over the Channel and the propensity of Irish beef on the GB market.
Monday saw the trend continuing, with a 19% increase on live market sales on the week and the price holding firm. This could be producers “clearing the decks”, while the price holds, says Mr Sinclair.