The beef trade resembles Galway's first-half performance on Sunday -- it is just about hanging on.
Hopefully, like the Tribesmen's second-half showing, the trade will improve.
With the weekly kill remaining below 25,000hd, it is disappointing to see that the factories have been successful in their bid to pull the base quote on the grid below the 400c/kg mark.
While hard sellers are still negotiating a base of 400c/kg, a significant amount of cattle are now being sold at a base of 395c/kg.
Some plants have actually quoted as low as 385c/kg.
All I will say is that the farmers that sell to those plants at this figure are doing a disservice to their fellow farmers and only encouraging further downward pressure by the processors.
The base quote is generally 395-400c/kg for the steers, with Donegal still leading the way on its 415c/kg for in-spec stock.
The heifer base is around 405-410c/kg, with a number of finishers successfully bargaining for a base of up to 415c/kg. The northwest plant stays ahead at 418c/kg for the R-grade in-spec animals.
Good young bulls are making up to 415c/kg in places. R grades appear to be making 400-410c/kg while plainer types in the O-grade category are hovering at 380-390/kg.
The trade for cows is steady, with the top cows making from 370-388c/kg. R grades are in the 350-482c/kg bracket.
Quotes for the Os range from 340-376c/kg, with the higher figure being paid for good quality O grades up in Donegal. P+ cows are making from 320-364c/kg.
Bord Bia reported that the cattle trade settled down over the past week as supplies remained relatively tight despite poor weather.
Trade continued to be helped by a favourable exchange rate between sterling and the euro, which is making Irish beef exports more competitive.
Cattle supplies to-date this year are running almost 15pc or 134,700 head behind last year's levels.
In the UK, trade remained unchanged with tight supplies matching sluggish demand. Weak demand for manufacturing beef continues to persist.
Reported cattle prices from the AHDB for GB R4L grade steers are making 347.9 pence/kg dw (equivalent to 465c/kg including VAT dw) for the week ended August 4.
On the continent, trade across most of the key markets firmed, reflecting tightening supplies across most key markets. In France, Irish steer hinds are still making between €5.78-5.88/kg.
R3 young bulls in Germany are making €4.12/kg, with O3 cow prices making €3.56/kg. In Italy, R3 young bulls are making €4.16/kg, while O3 cows are making €3.16/kg.
Meanwhile, Rabobank's Global Cattle Price Index dropped 7pc from Q1 levels this year, driven by generally weaker demand and a stronger US dollar.
On the supply side, the world continued to be relatively short of beef, as Brazil was the only major producer to deliver significant production growth. In a year-on-year comparison, the index is beginning the third quarter of 2012 down 9pc from 2011.
The downward pressure on prices will ultimately be balanced against reduced supply, as cuts in North American grain-fed meat production take hold.
Elsewhere, British beef production is predicted to be down this year and, as a result, exports are likely to be below 2011 levels.
Imports, meanwhile, will be up in 2012, says beef forecasting body AHDB, with more product from within the EU, principally Ireland.
- Joe Healy
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