UK Beef Production and Supplies to be Lower

By Chris Harris, Senior Editor, TheCattleSite. The outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease in the UK in the middle of 2007 did not see a great difference in the numbers of cattle sent for slaughter.
calendar icon 1 February 2008
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Mark Topliff, from the Economic and Policy Analysis Group of the Meat and Livestock Commission told the Outlook 2008 conference in London that because the outbreak at the Pirbright laboratories in Surrey was isolated to a particular area, it meant that most producers could send their animals for slaughter away from the restricted zone.

Mr Topliff said that overall prime cattle supplies rose by 2.1 per cent, although there was a 3.9 per cent drop in young bulls and a 3.6 per cent fall in the numbers of heifers.

"Carcase weights saw a significant increase because of the number of steers," Mr Topliff said.

While the number of slaughterings fell considerably compared to 2006 figures, beef production still rose due to higher carcase weights.

However, he added that because of the rise in feed costs, the average carcase weight this year is likely to fall back.

Cow beef slaughterings showed a slight rise at the beginning of the year, but by the end of 2007 they had levelled off to the 2006 numbers.

While there was a slight rise in prime cattle supplies, prises rose by 2p per kilo on average compared to prices in 2006 - up from 204.1p per kg to 206p per kg.

"There has been a strong start to 2008 because of the tight supply fo cattle," Mr Topliff said.

Beef imports, while down at the beginning of the year were up by 2,000 tonnes, or one per cent, over the whole year.

Most of the beef came from the EU, with 130,000 tonnes coming from Ireland. Germany and the Netherlands saw a 17 per cent rise in their exports of beef to the UK and Uruguay had a 20 per cent increase. However, imports of beef from Brazil fell by nine per cent to just over 20,000 tonnes over the year. In all 60 per cent of the EU imports of beef come from Brazil and the period from January to October saw a rise in imports reaching between 165,000 and 175,000 tonnes. In 2006 EU imports from Brazil had fallen to under 165,000 tonnes from a high of nearly 180,000 tonnes in 2005.

In 2006 21 per cent of the UK's total imports came from Brazil, with 64 per cent of the meat coming in being processed and 23 per cent frozen. Only 13 per cent was fresh. UK imports of beef from Brazil have been gradually declining since their peak in 2004.

"Last year the British beef export trade was developing well," Mr Topliff told the conference.

"But then foot and mouth disease hit, but it started to come back again in November.

"Last year 53,000 tonnes were exported."

Up to November last year exports had risen by 51 per cent.

The main destinations for British beef have been the Netherlands for carcase meat and Ireland for boneless cuts. The Netherlands took 32 per cent of British beef exports and Ireland 30 per cent. France, Germany, Italy and Belgium are the other major destinations - all within the EU.

Last year also saw the revival of the export of live male dairy calves, with 64,000 young calves being shipped.

On the domestic market, retail sales of beef rose by one per cent in 2006 on the previous year and four per cent last year.

However, there has been a significant decline in the UK herd with the dairy herd expected to continue to fall by about one per cent and the beef herd to decline by 1.5 per cent.

For manufacturing beef Mr Topliff said he expected to see an increase in the numbers of cows being sent for slaughter as they become available and eligible for the food chain.

The total beef production in the UK is expected to fall from and estimated 882,000 tonnes in 2007 to 870,000 tonnes this year. Imports are expected to fall from 296,000 tonnes last year to between 275,000 tonnes and 290,000 tonnes.

"This will all depend on what happens to exports from Brazil and whether Brazil will be allowed to export to the EU," Mr Topliff said. British beef exports are expected to rise from 75,000 tonnes last year to 85,000 tonnes.

In conclusion, Mr Topliff said: "There will be a continued decline in prime cattle numbers, but export volumes will develop further in 2008.

"The EU/UK market will be affected by restricted Brazilian shipments.

"Retail demand has been good but growth could slow down in 2008 and overall production and supplies are forecast to be lower."

January 2008
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