Irish beef forcing down UK prices – Forster

By James Garner

ANGLO-IRISH processors stand accused of forcing down beef deadweight prices by using cheaper Irish supplies to put pressure on the UK market.

NBA chief executive, Robert Forster, demanded that processors with a hand in both Irish and UK beef markets show their loyalty to British beef by declaring they had not shipped any in.

Because they process beef in both countries it was less clear what proportion they had sourced from the Republic of Ireland or Great Britain, said Mr Forster.

“It is clear from prime cattle prices that farmers have been shafted. The level which prices have fallen, is nothing short of a scandal.”

Last week, according to Mr Forster, deadweight prices for English and Welsh R4L steers fell to 152-155p/kg, compared with the MLCs average for the week before of 167p/kg. That is a drop of nearly 40 on an average 330kg carcass.

But the allegations were flatly refuted by Dawn Meats and ABP, both with Irish operations.

In response, Mr Forster congratulated both companies. But he reckoned there was some skulduggery going on.

“Retail demand has dropped by only 3% and retailers have kept the same beef price, so there were no reasons for deadweight prices to drop.”

Processors highlighted that while meat values may have remained the same for prime cuts, it was fore-quarter and bone-in cuts that had taken the hit.

MLCs Duncan Sinclair confirmed that if deadweight prices did drop, there was no reason why that should be reflected in the retail price.

“Prices also depend on what is happening in the manufacturing and secondary wholesale beef sector. This area may have felt more pressure from cheap Irish imports.”

Better prices though, might be just around the corner, he said.

In the live market, prices and numbers are already up this week with Mondays average market price up 5p/kg to 89p, and 20% more beasts through the ring.

But that might reflect Christmas markets and primestock show and sales, and not be true commercial trade, said Mr Sinclair.

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