Of Agriculture figures show that, excluding the Christmas period, throughput at Irish meat factories last week was the lowest level recorded in over three years and the second lowest in over five years.
The figures have angered farmers who last week were forced to accept lower prices on the basis that factories 'were being flooded with stock' due to poor weather conditions.
IFA president John Bryan has accused the meat factories of 'attacking cattle prices in an unjustified and opportunistic manner'.
He said the factories were 'guilty of compounding the bad weather problems and deliberately spreading misinformation by telling farmer suppliers they were full of stock when the facts show that this was not the case'.
At just 23,412 head, throughput was 1,378 head lower than the week previous and 3,591 head lower than the corresponding week last year.
Factories also justified reducing the quoted price on the basis of tough trading conditions.
However, prices in Britain, our main export market, are now running at the equivalent of €150 per finished steer above Irish prices.
Meanwhile in Northern Ireland, tight supplies have allowed farmers to reverse the downward trend and they are now securing 8c to 10c/kg above prices quoted at the start of the week.
Some Northern farmers are now securing the equivalent of €115 per finished animal above their southern counterparts.
The ongoing price pull comes despite the slide in the value of the euro against sterling, which is providing a boost to the trade.
The shift over the past four weeks has improved the competitiveness of Irish beef destined for the British market by the equivalent of 13c/kg.
The IFA president said the message from the factories to their farmer suppliers was very negative.
He said: "The factories are telling farmers they are not able to handle 24,000 cattle per week without cutting the price.
This is a very serious and worrying message for the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney and the beef and livestock sector, in the context of the Food Harvest 2020 plan."
Bryan has called on Minister Coveney to secure the recommencement of the live export trade to Libya, Egypt and the Lebanon.
He said that with an increase in the supply of younger cattle and the price-cutting tactics of the factories, the Minister must re-open the live trade to these markets and secure price competition and alternative market outlets.
Source: Argentine Beef Packers S.A.
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