By Farmers Weekly staff
BEEF farmers can expect another reasonable year, despite forecasts of a slight increase in supplies.
Output is expected to edge ahead of last years 917,000t, the highest figure since 1995, said Duncan Sinclair of the MLC.
The main reason is the ending of the calf processing aid scheme.
This removed over 300,000 calves last year, and about a third of that number are expected to be reared as beef cattle.
That will lead to an estimated 2% increase in supplies.
But fewer suckler cattle will help offset that. Suckler numbers fell 2% in 1999 and could drop a further 1.5% this year, he added.
Together with a small rise in consumption and lack of notable stocks of intervention beef, returns should remain fairly stable.
Last year beef markets averaged 92.4p/kg.
On an EU-wide scale, rearing extra calves and possible inclusion of over 30-month cattle could add 350,000t to production figures.
That, said the ECs Thorkild Rasmussen, could force retail prices down by 7-8%, though cheaper meat might lift consumption by 2.5%, he added.
Although others disagree, he pointed out that at least the EU beef exports are well within WTO limits if a relief mechanism is needed.