Scottish farmers are getting paid 12% less for cattle compared with last year, which is a trend seen across the world, according to QMS director of economic services Stuart Ashworth.

Farmers in the US are experiencing a 7% fall in prices on the year, while the EU average is 10% for prime steers and 5% less for prime heifers.

Meanwhile, the dramatic tumble in currency value being experienced in Argentina means that producers are getting paid 50% more than last year, at the same time as their beef being cheaper for countries to import.

A similar picture can be seen in the Brazilian beef market, with their imports becoming more competitive across the world while producers are getting 5% more in their local currency.

Weaker rates

Australia is also benefiting from weaker exchange rates, which have helped to push their beef producer prices 5% to 7% higher without affecting their competitiveness on international markets.

However, Ashworth points out that some parts of the world are experiencing tightening of supply and also reduced producer prices, which bucks the usual economic trend.

The European Union reports total beef production in the first half of 2019 was 1% lower than it was in 2018.

The USDA also reports lower throughputs at its abattoirs than this time last year, which, combined with a reduction of around 4kg in carcase weights, means lower domestic production in the US.

Lower weekly kills

Although not as significant, the UK also reported lower weekly kills of prime cattle through past quarter, but because of increases in carcase weights of around 5kg to 7kg, the volume of beef produced has increased.

“Provisional UK trade data for July shows beef imports to be significantly lower than they were a year ago,” said Ashworth.

“Over the first seven months of the year, customs data shows imports to have fallen 9%, while exports have increased by 14%, resulting, despite higher carcase weights, in a lower volume of beef on the home market,” he added.

In France, where the current producer price is a more modest 1% lower than a year ago, their production has fallen 3% over the first half of the year.

Lower production and lower imports points towards lower consumption in France.

The volume of beef available for consumption within the EU has dipped below last year’s levels

Similarly, beef imports into the EU over the first seven months of 2019 have been 4% lower than in the same period last year.

Adjusting for trade and a fall in production, the volume of beef available for consumption within the EU has dipped below last year’s levels despite producer prices weakening.

“European beef prices have therefore come under pressure at a time when the volume of beef produced has been sliding, suggesting weaker demand for beef,” concluded Ashworth.