Beef prices are set to rise as retail demand soars on foot of widespread COVID-19 lockdowns across Europe.

This, coupled with reduced supplies of finished cattle, points to higher beef prices in 2021.

The impact is already evident in the trade this week with factory agents offering 5c to 10c more than they were before Christmas. Quotes for bullocks this week range from €3.75/kg to €3.80/kg, while heifers are €3.80/kg to €3.90/kg.

Department of Agriculture AIMS figures show there will be a significant tightening in finished cattle supplies for the first six months of 2021.

UK retailers saw record sales in December, with sales up 10% on 2019. This has led to shelves being cleared and chill stores being emptied as demand outstrips supply. Demand is expected to increase further in the coming months.

Fears of COVID-19 hitting the beef trade last year were unfounded with latest figures showing that Irish beef exports to the UK were down just 3%.

The UK-Irish price differential still stands at €150/head, demonstrating the scope that the Irish beef price has to increase further.