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Beef benefits from strong retail sales

Beef and lamb prices continue to be above those last year against a background of higher retail sales, the prospect of increasing foodservice sales and pressure on slaughter numbers.

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Beef benefits from strong retail sales

In the middle of June average weekly prime cattle liveweight prices were at 195p/kilogram, according to AHDB.

 

That was 4.8 per cent higher than the same point last year.

 

Deadweight prices for steers were averaging 358p/kg in the middle of the month, 5.3 per cent higher than the year before and 10.8 per cent higher than the late March 2019 price when the market was upended by coronavirus.


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The average new season lamb liveweight price was 228p/kg, 5.6 per cent more than in June 2019, with old season prices 7.9 per cent up on last year at 164p/kg.

 

Deadweight prices were averaging 493p/kg in mid-June, 9.1 per cent more than 12-months before.

Shoppers have bought a lot more beef in lockdown than they normally do.

 

Increase

 

Weekly figures from markets researchers Kantar for AHSB estimate that total beef sales were 29.6 per cent higher in the 16 weeks to June 14 than in the same period last year at 124,800 tonnes, with sales of burgers and grills up 43.8 per cent and primary cuts up 26.8 per cent.

 

Primary lamb cut sales were 8.6 per cent higher in the period - it is estimated that they account for 61 per cent of total lamb sales.

The impact of foodservice closures

Gauging the decline in out-of-home sales of beef and lamb is difficult.

 

In 2019 the AHDB estimated that 21 per cent of beef sales were out of home, the equivalent of 162,567 tonnes.

 

Assuming that foodservice trade has been down 75 per cent on normal volumes since the beginning of March, then the increase in retail sales may not have quite made up for the decline in out-of-home trade, although is close.

 

It is estimated that 15 per cent of lamb is eaten out of the home.

 

On the supply side, AHDB weekly slaughter estimates showed 674,700 cattle of all types were slaughtered in the 16 weeks to 13 June, which was only 5,000 or 0.8 per cent less than the same period last year, which suggests some underlying strength to the market.

 

However, lamb slaughterings are 13.2 per cent less than last year at 3.117 million head.

 

That means there are more sheep to be sold than a year ago, especially if the 2.1 per cent increase in sheep and lamb numbers calculated by Defra in December of 2019 is taken into account.

The extra supply could put pressure on prices.

PANEL

Trade another important component of beef and lamb supply

Beef imports are down nearly 10 per cent on the first four months of the year at 80,200 tonnes, with April’s imports 15 per cent less than the same month last year, according to HMRC figures.

 

Exports were lower in April, but over the four months to the end of April they were 3 per cent higher than last year at 42,400 tonnes.

 

That means the UK’s beef trade deficit has dropped by more than 10,000 tonnes in the first four months of 2019, helping to tighten the domestic market.

 

Lamb imports were down 18.5 per cent over the first four months of the year to 24,600 tonnes, with imports down 4.9 per cent to 24,300 tonnes.

 

The market for beef appears to be tighter than that for lamb, but for both meats the continued increase in consumption at home, a recovery in out-of-home sales and no significant disruption in the supply chain from coronavirus will all be key to supporting prices over the coming months.

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