Beef prices holding firm on tight supplies

Sustained demand for UK beef, combined with a reduction in prime cattle throughputs, have firmed prices further.

There was a 3% drop in prime cattle slaughterings to 31,600 head for the week ending 15 June compared with the previous week. The figure is also down by 2% on the same week a year ago.

See also: Tight supplies predicted to preserve Scots meat prices

Allied to reasonable demand, the GB all-prime average price strengthened by a further 1.33p/kg compared with prices a week earlier, to average 370.26p/kg, said AHDB Beef and Lamb.

The main driver for the price rise and fall-off in throughput were steers, which saw slaughterings decline by 6% week-on-week and R4L specification average prices rise by more than 4p to average 384.5p/kg.

The latest increase means cattle prices have risen by 16p/kg in the past four months.

However, the AHDB said values had started to narrow year-on-year against the strong uplift seen in summer 2017 and could come under more pressure as throughput recovered with grass-finished cattle coming on stream.

In contrast to steers, R4L heifers slipped by 1p to 381.3p/kg, and R3 young bulls fell by less than a penny to stand at 365.9p/kg.

However, the market for cows has remained robust this week, bolstered by demand for manufacturing-type beef and the continuing overall high for prime cattle.

Despite a throughput rise of 700 head to 10,100 for the week, the overall average cow price rose by 3p to average 267.2p/kg.

The demand for manufacturing beef has also driven a rise in imports over the first four months of 2018 compared with the same period in 2017. Total imports of fresh/frozen beef reached 91,000t, up 6% on January to the end of April 2017.

Imports from France in the first four months of 2018 showed the largest proportional rise at 88% against year-earlier statistics, to total 1,200t. The vast majority of imported beef (70%) came from Ireland and this also rose by 6.5% to 65,000t in the first four months of 2018.

However, while the UK imported more beef from certain countries up to the end of April, the period also saw a rise in exports of home-grown product against those four months in 2017.

AHDB analyst Tom Forshaw said fresh/frozen beef exports up to 30 April totalled 38,700t (+17%).

“Ireland was the biggest export destination for the UK, commanding over 30% of the market share of exports,” Mr Forshaw said.

In the first four months of 2018, UK total fresh/frozen beef exports to the republic totalled 13,500t (+33%).

“The reason for the uplift was cattle supplies in Ireland have tightened, which could support demand for UK beef,” Mr Forshaw forecast.

The value of total UK fresh/frozen beef exports also increased, to total £144m (+21%) in the first four months of 2018.