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Positive signs for Welsh beef farmers

Nov 6 2014

An expected fall in imports, a tightening of the domestic supply and robust consumer demand could see improved returns for beef farmers next year.

Such an improvement would follow a difficult period for the beef sector, according to Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales.

“The latest forecasts for beef and veal suggests that there will be lower cattle availability and reduced production in 2015,” said Charlotte Morris, HCC’s Industry Information Officer.

“Significantly fewer beef calves were registered in UK during 2013 and this will show in the market place. In Wales, for example registrations during the year were down seven per cent – or nearly 16,800 head – to a total of 223,400 while registrations across Britain were down by four per cent to stand at 1.67 million.”

Calf registrations were also down in the Republic of Ireland. With two thirds of UK imports coming from the Republic this will again have an effect on the market.

The deadweight cattle trade in England and Wales remained relatively static during October with the all deadweight steer average standing at 340p/kg for the week ending November 1st. This was 20p above the levels experienced at the beginning of July, but some 40p down on the same week last year.

“The uplift in deadweight prices since early July has been a result of supply not meeting the demand set by some processors, although deadweight prices are still behind levels witnessed in the same period 12 months ago which reached levels of 380-385p,” said Miss Morris.

Cattle slaughter figures for the UK between January and September 2014 stood at 1.46 million head, witnessing an increase of 1.5 per cent compared to levels experienced last year.

This is a result of more slaughter age cattle on the ground and in particular 24 to 30 months steers. Along with increased slaughter figures, the UK has also seen an improvement in production with UK beef and veal production for January to September 2014 totalling 650,000 tonnes, an increase of 3.5 per cent on the first nine months of 2013.

The average UK prime cattle carcase weight for September 2014 stood at 346kg, an increase of 8kg on September 2013.

“A combination of factors could be influencing the increase in carcase weights,” said Miss Morris. “The availability of plentiful and quality grass is a contributing factor, but there is the possibility of farmers holding on to cattle for longer.”

Meanwhile consumer spending for the quarter to October had increased by 2.3 per cent, influenced by a 2.7% increase in average price to £7.76 per kg, according to Kantar Worldpanel, while volume sales remained relatively stable.

“Mince beef still holds the largest share of the beef market across GB retailers of 54 per cent of the market,” said Miss Morris. “But with Christmas on the horizon, there are expectations that consumers could start to switch to higher value cuts.”

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