Farmgate Beef Prices Remain Strong

UK - The volume of cattle handled by Scottish price reporting abattoirs is currently around 10 per cent higher than a month ago, according to Stuart Ashworth, Quality Meat Scotland, Head of Economics Services.
calendar icon 22 October 2013
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In England and Wales, cattle volumes have steadied over the past couple of weeks after increasing by around 3,000 head per week, around 20 per cent, since the beginning of August.

"Increased volumes often result in some market price correction," said Mr Ashworth. "It is therefore not surprising that prime cattle prices have steadied over the past few weeks as the market has become slightly better supplied.

"Nevertheless, producer prices remain 12-15 per cent higher than last year with cattle availability still struggling to match last year’s levels.

However, while producers are benefiting from higher farmgate prices, consumers continue to get exceptional value for money, although they may not see it that way.

"Latest figures from the Office of National Statistics show that consumers are paying 8.8 per cent more than last year for beef, 8.2 per cent more for UK lamb, and 3.3 per cent more for pork," commented Mr Ashworth.

"When compared to the 10-15 per cent increases paid for livestock by processors and butchers, these more modest increases at retail level are exceptional value for money and illustrate the squeeze being felt in the supply chain beyond the farm gate."

These increases in retail meat prices are however considerably higher than the many measures of general consumer price inflation.

"The Consumer Price Index is only 2.7 per cent higher than 12 months ago and the RPI, which is used to set the increase in state pension for next year, is 2.5 per cent higher," said Mr Ashworth.

"Consequently consumers will once again be seeing meat retail prices as ‘high’ when trying to manage their weekly budgets."

Nevertheless, although consumers may be wary, the supply prospects continue to favour producers with provisional UK census results recording a decline of at least 1 per cent in the UK lamb crop and 3 per cent fewer cattle under one year old on farms in June this year.

"Census results from Ireland similarly show a decline in cattle and sheep numbers, with the number of cattle under one year old down 3 per cent and prime lamb numbers almost 3 per cent lower than last year," said Mr Ashworth.

"However, what both the UK and Irish census show is potential for a short-term increase in cattle supplies with the number of one to two year old cattle on farms in June, 2 per cent higher than last year in the UK and 9 per cent higher in the Republic of Ireland."

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