The ball is back in beef farmers’ court when it comes to beef prices, according to the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers Association (ICSA).

ICSA beef chair Edmund Graham said factory prices are hardening and that agents are back actively looking for prime cattle.

“This week has seen a marked change with factories actively looking for cattle and quotes have increased by as much as 10c/kg. It is now time for farmers to toughen when selling cattle and seek higher prices,” he said.

‘Claw back’

However, despite more positive news on the beef price front, Graham highlighted that beef prices have been far below the level paid in Irish export markets for most of the summer, claiming that due to this, factories have taken excess profit.

ICSA beef chair Edmund Graham. \ Dave Ruffles

“It is now time to claw back some of this. If we look at the Bord Bia market tracking for the most recent available week, we see that Irish prime beef prices have been 34c/kg behind the EU comparable figure.

“The most recent figures from Bord Bia indicate an Irish composite price of €4.56/kg (excluding VAT) for prime cattle compared to the EU export benchmark price of €4.90/kg. That’s a differential of 34c/kg which cannot be explained away,” he said.

‘More dire’

The ICSA beef chair went further on the comparisons between UK and Irish beef prices, specifically.

“The last time we saw prices here on par with UK prices was back in January of this year. Since then, a significant price gap has opened, and UK prices have remained consistently higher than what is being offered to Irish producers.

“The most recently listed comparison on Bord Bia’s Beef Market Tracker - from 12 August 2023 - puts UK prices for prime R3 cattle at an average of €5.33/kg with Irish prices for similar stock languishing at an average of €4.66/kg (excluding VAT). That is a staggering difference of 67c/kg or €240 on a typical 360kg carcase,” he said.

Fair price

Graham said beef producers here are becoming more and more despondent at not being paid a fair price.

“Morale is definitely low, but anger is growing too. It is shameful that there has been no acknowledgement from the processors that it is costing more than ever to produce beef.

Beef prices have risen slightly in recent days, said the ICSA.

“It is shameful that our beef farmers are expected to produce at below any recognised Teagasc cost of production figures and it is not economically sustainable at a time of escalating costs,” he said.

The ICSA representative encouraged farmers to fight for the best prices possible.

“Each and every farmer who has dealings with the big processors needs to push hard for prices as there is more to be had than general quotes would suggest. It is still not enough but we need to keep the pressure on to close those price gaps,” he said.

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