Irish farmgate beef prices have started to move in recent weeks, with the R3 steer now at €3.90/kg (ex-VAT).

However, they remain completely adrift of Britain on the equivalent of €4.75/kg and the North on the equivalent of €4.75/kg for the R3 steer.

This means that a typical Irish R3 steer is worth between €300 and €350 per head less than its UK counterpart.

The Irish steer price has pulled ahead of the EU average R3 young bull price of €3.77/kg.

In the world’s top three beef-exporting nations, Australia is well in front on the equivalent of €4.30/kg, the US is on €3.57/kg and Brazil is on the equivalent of €3.09/kg.

Two-tier sheepmeat price

Sheepmeat prices in the EU are ranging between €7.50/kg and €7.58/kg, but Australia and New Zealand are well behind on the equivalent of €4.90/kg and €3.98/kg respectively.

Sheepmeat supply is low in both countries and sustained growth in demand from China means they are also sending less to the EU and UK.

Chinese imports continue to grow

Results for the first quarter of Chinese meat imports show sustained growth across all categories when compared with the previous two years.

Beef imports reached 617,000t for the first quarter, up from 513,171t for the same period in 2020 and almost double the first quarter of 2019 when it was 311,446t.

Sheepmeat imports for Q1 were 123,460t, up from 99,378t in Q1 last year, which was just ahead of the 98,130t in 2019.

Pigmeat imports also continue to increase and were 1.140m tonnes in the first quarter, compared with 927,917t in the first quarter of 2020.

This had been almost a threefold increase on the 334,259t imported in Q1 2019.

Brazil on top

Brazil is the biggest beef supplier to China by a distance, accounting for 241,000t in Q1 2021, up from 181,427t in the same period last year, and which was more than double the 73,671t it supplied in Q1 2019.

It is also the second-largest supplier of pigmeat in the first quarter of 2021 on 121,210t, a fourfold increase on the same period in 2019.

Irish pigmeat exports to China are also increasing, with 20,252t imported in the first quarter, compared with 16,140t in the same period last year.

Sheepmeat imports have also continued to grow, despite tighter supplies in both Australia and New Zealand.

Between them, they supplied 116,759t, 95% of the sheepmeat imported by China in Q1.

This has meant New Zealand supplies to the UK and EU have declined further and is a big part of the explanation for strong Irish prices in recent weeks.

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