BEEF PRICES have continued to slide this week as domestic supplies are pushed from retailers’ shelves by cheaper South American imports.
Average R4L steer values slipped from recent highs of just under 200p/kg to 192.5p/kg on Wednesday, July 20, although many farmers in England were receiving prices around 180p/kg.
Livestock auctioneers said market prices were beginning to fall away on the back of weaker deadweight values.
But the worst price falls were mainly in the south of England and affected trade with the bigger processors.
Auctioneers told FARMERS WEEKLY that deadweight prices had slipped as low as 178p/kg, although some abattoirs in the north were still paying up to 190p/kg.
Several were quick to pin down the cause, saying those in the industry who had called for 220p-250p/kg were “as much to blame as anyone”.
“Retailers did what they had to do – they covered their supply needs.”
But National Beef Association chief executive Robert Forster said retailers had faced a severe shortage of prime beef last summer.
“The multiples have ordered significantly higher quantities of South American beef, mainly steaks.
“This has coincided with a heavier availability of domestic cattle. Now we have total pile-up.”
“What the NBA has been saying is that unless farmers make money, they won’t stay with beef.
“We have been encouraging retailers, processors and farmers that they have to think in terms of 250p/kg or their businesses would be unsustainable.
“And companies like Anglo Beef Processors were encouraging finishers to present yard cattle in July because they anticipated a gap in supply.
“The naked truth of post-decoupling beef costs is about to be exposed.”
John Griffiths, who finishes 150 Continental-cross steers at Cleobury Mortimer, Shropshire, said: “Those who were calling for 250p/kg have not done us much good.
“We were happy to produce at 200-210p/kg – we could do it for that.”
A drop to 180p/kg meant £56 a head less for a 350kg deadweight beast, he added.
“Taking into account the loss of slaughter premium, our returns are about £110 less than this time last year.”