Global prices remain steady this week for both beef and sheepmeat, with Irish beef prices being one of the more notable movers up to €4.04/kg for R3 steers.

This is significantly ahead of the EU average of €3.77/kg for R3 young bulls, but dramatically behind Britain, where average R3 prices have steadied at €4.72/kg equivalent.

The Northern Irish price of €4.48/kg is now noticeably behind the price in Britain, though well ahead of the Irish price.

In global markets, Brazil is a contradiction, because while prices have eased slightly in their own currency, because the real has increased in value against the euro, it means their price has increased to €3.15/kg when converted.

Elsewhere, prices are steady in Australia at €4.31/kg equivalent and the US is on €3.50/kg, as the US dollar trades at an exchange rate of $1.21=€1.

Beef trade

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is reporting that prices for manufacturing beef are continuing to increase in the US, as import volumes continue to run 10% below the same period in 2020.

The biggest drop in supplies are from Australia, though imports from Ireland are also down 11% at 2,712t.

Business for South American exporters to the EU has been stagnant, but is starting to show signs of recovery, while their main focus continues on China from where demand is strong.

China is also in the process of approving more factories from the USA for supply.


Exceptional prices in Europe continue to contrast with Australia and New Zealand, which between them account for over 70% of all sheepmeat exported in the world.

Bord Bia's reported prices for weekending 24 April show them rising strongly in Britain to the equivalent of €7.79/kg and in France at €7.74/kg.

Republic of Ireland prices come next at €7.67/kg, with Northern Ireland further back on €7.54/kg equivalent.

There is then quite a gap back to Australian prices on €4.92/kg equivalent and New Zealand is on €4.15/kg.


There is no doubt that sheepmeat sales have prospered in lockdown, as consumers didn’t have the normal options and also had time to undertake more formal cooking.

This increased retail demand coincided with less supply, so the recipe for higher prices was in place.

Irish volumes are running 8% below last year, with 685,000 going to the factory in the first 15 weeks of 2021.

It is similar in Britain, where numbers are down 10% on 2020, with 2.8m going to factories compared with 3.1m in the same period last year.

Production is also down in Australia, with export figures released by Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) for the first quarter of 2021 showing a 19% decline.

The other factor is New Zealand. Its focus on China as its main export market continues, with 84,646t exported there between 1 October and 31 March this year, while just 49,936t were exported to the EU and UK combined.

This is in complete contrast with the historical trading pattern and as recently as October 2016 to March 2017, New Zealand was exporting 61,695t to the then EU28 and just 49,343t to China.

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