Controversy continues over weekly cattle prices

23 March 2001

Controversy continues over weekly cattle prices

By James Garner

THE National Beef Association has called on MAFF to create an independent committee to set prices now that auction markets cannot establish a base value because of foot-and-mouth restrictions.

The NBA said the Meat and Livestock Commission would be the ideal independent body to head a committee to fix weekly cattle prices.

The MLC rebuffed the offer: A source said the request was unhelpful and would place the organisation in a "very difficult position".

Currently, the MLC does publish cattle and pig deadweight figures, but NBA vice-chairman Keith Redpath said these were too historical.

But even though sheep prices have been hardest hit, the National Sheep Association tempered its initial anger.

John Thorley, NSA chief executive, said: "The disease is very difficult to see in sheep. The upshot of this is that abattoirs are reluctant to take them in.

"It is hard to be constructively critical of an industry protecting its own business interests," he said. "Prices are about 20-30% back, but we are glad to see some lambs being slaughtered."

Meanwhile, all meat markets have remained under pressure (see panel). Beef prices in the UK for standard R4L quality steers vary from a low of 164p/kg dw in England to a high of 175p/kg dw in Scotland, about the same as last week.

Lamb prices have eased again on last weeks 180-200p/kg dw range, reported the MLC. Pigs, too, are under pressure with spot prices down another 5-7p on last weeks 90p/kg. Some contract prices are also said to have fallen.

Many farmers feel aggrieved and believe they are being sold short. One Devon farmer, who wished to remain nameless, said she was offered just 155p/kg for a standard R grade, 320kg carcass last week at Bridgwater Beef in Taunton.

This week the farmer changed to supplying Southern Counties Fresh Foods at Langport. Despite a better price of 165p/kg for the same spec animal, all stock had to be inspected by a vet.

This was going to cost an extra £67 for call-out and pre-surgery fees. The farmers two heifers are approaching 30-months, so options are limited.

Supply now appears to be improving, but demand might be constrained by the buying policy of retailers, who bought imported product with gusto when the crisis first broke, when they feared shelves might be left bare.

Frank Bowley, NFUeconomist, said that there was bound to be some hangover of foreign meat. "No-one had any idea how long the slaughter ban would last and it ended abruptly." &#42

Farmers feel aggrieved at low prices being offered by abattoirs.

Abattoirs payments

(Prices in p/kg deadweight*)

Company Beef Price Lamb Price

Northern Counties 164

Woodhead Bros 170 195

ABP England 165

ABP Scotland 175 185-200

Scottish Premier Meat 173.5

St Merryn Meat 165

Mathers 175

Midland Meat Packers No comment

Scotbeef No comment

Highland Meat No comment

McIntosh Donald Stephen No comment

Kepak Unavailable

Rose County Unavailable

Southern Counties Unavailable

Dovecote Park has maintained prices since start of outbreak

Help us to help you

We would like to thank those abattoirs who were willing to take part in farmers weeklys spot survey of deadweight prices this week. With your help, we would like to publish a more comprehensive list next week to ensure farmers can get the best price possible for their stock. Please help us by calling 0208 652 4920 with your values.

*Beef values based on R4L standard carcass; sheep values on R3L carcass. All quotes for Mar 21.

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