Beef backlog set to ease

12 November 1999

Beef backlog set to ease

INTERVENTION stocks of beef are almost sold out in the UK, easing some of the pressure on cattle prices.

Almost 4000t were expected to be passed for sale today (Fri) by market managers meeting in Brussels, and UK stores should be empty by the year-end.

Elsewhere in Europe, stocks are estimated to have halved since the end of July to about 135,000t, and most of that is already under contract for sale. The commission estimates there will be just 30,000t in store throughout the EU by the end of the year.

With consumer demand for beef back to pre-BSE levels in the UK, and beef slaughterings set to tighten in the next few months, prices should now improve.

"The recent disposals from intervention have been overhanging the market, especially for forequarters," says Meat and Livestock Comm-ission economist, Jane Connor. "That pressure should now ease."

The concern is that any improvement will act as a draw on imports, putting a cap on further price rises. Already this year there has been a marked increase in Irish imports and, despite the fact the Republic is enjoying a rejuvenated live export trade to the Continent, a further marketing push into the UK is anticipated.

"With the UK herd starting to contract, we anticipate an increased demand for our beef, to fill the gap in the market," says Michael Murphy of the Irish Food Boards London office.

Looking further ahead, the MLC is forecasting an upturn in UK slaughterings from the middle of next year, as animals which would have gone into the calf processing scheme emerge as finished steers. &#42

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