The stability of the quoted beef prices at factories for cattle this week should provide a base for autumn farmer confidence.
Quoted prices were unchanged at the processing plants, despite a sharp increase in supply, hitting a 2012 peak.
However, processors appear to have made some gains — by easing slightly back with any price top-ups they are willing to pay for this week’s supply.
And farmer confidence on prices is always tempered by the fear that processors are ready to bring the prices back at the first opportunity. Stronger supply levels have so often proven to be that opportune time for the sector to ease prices.
But it is welcome news for them that quoted prices have been maintained, despite the rise in supplies over the past three weeks, even if the biggest test is still to come, when the outflow of finished cattle peaks over the next month.
Peak cattle supplies will be lower in 2012 because the overall annual supply is tighter.
Base prices quoted for steers range from 380 to 390 cent/kg (135p-139p/lb). Actual prices being paid generally range from 385 to 390 cent/kg. Quoted and actual prices for heifers are 10-15 cent/kg higher than for steers.
Intake last week reached 30,247 head for the first time in 2012, but some easing back this week would not be unexpected, due to the attraction of the National Ploughing Championships for farmers.
In another development this week, export refunds for all beef and veal products to third country destinations are now suspended. For the first seven months of this year, Irish beef exports to third country markets accounted for around 2% of total beef exports.
Cow prices at factories are marginally stronger this week, with base prices for O/P grade cows up to 330 cent/kg for the heavier lots, and the Rs making up to 355 cent/kg.
Trade in the UK last week was reported similar to previous weeks, with tight supplies matching demand levels.
Cattle prices, however, have eased, with R4L grade steers averaging equivalent to 461 cent/kg (165p/lb), a drop of 10 cent/kg.
On the Continent, trade across some of the key markets was largely firm last week, with prices reflecting this pattern. Demand continued to shift from hindquarter to forequarter cuts in response to cooler weather conditions throughout Europe.
Promotions are still evident across a number of the key export markets.
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