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Business update: Tighter markets finally support UK meat prices

Beef prices are still a long way below where they were a year ago but producers have welcomed a small increase in values as supply tightens.

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Business update: Tighter markets finally support UK meat prices

The latest AHDB all prime cattle price is 181.06p/kg liveweight, which is 5 per cent less than a year ago. That gap is half what it was in early October.

 

A relatively strong store cattle trade is also being reported, which might be partly due to the availability of plenty of forage on farms.

 

The number of cattle of all types and ages slaughtered in October was up 0.2 per cent on the year, while in the 12-month period there was output of 2.834 million head, 1.3 per cent more than in the previous year and the largest annual total since the end of 2011.

 

These numbers may tighten over coming months.

 

Estimates

 

Defra estimates there were 9.784m head of all cattle in June 2019, 1.4 per cent less than the year before and the smallest total of the decade.

 

The female breeding herd was 2 per cent smaller than last year, with a 2.1 per cent reduction in the male cattle herd.

 

Global beef prices are rising, partly driven by lack of pig production caused by African swine fever (ASF).

 

AHDB analysis shows the Brazilian beef price in October averaged US$2.75/kg (£2.13/kg) deadweight, up US$0.30/kg (£0.23/kg) on the year before.

 

However that is still a long way off the average British price of US$3.70/kg (£2.86/kg) deadweight.


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EXPORTS

 

IN the year to September, the UK exported £450 million of beef, 3.5 per cent more than the previous year, with imports down 10.4 per cent to £948m.

 

The EU was the destination or origin of more than 80 per cent of that trade.

 

UK sheepmeat exports in the year to September were worth £387m, 5.2 per cent up on the previous year, with imports down 15.1 per cent to £309m.

 

The EU accounts for 90 per cent of sheepmeat exports but only 20 per cent of imports.

 

SHEEP AND LAMB PRICES

 

UK SHEEP prices are above where they were a year ago after a year when they have largely lagged behind last season.

 

Markets report a very strong store lamb trade, although there are fears that prices of up to £90 a head may not yield a profit next spring even with the availability of plenty of forage.

 

In October, 1.456 million sheep were slaughtered, according to Defra figures, which was 9.2 per cent more than October 2018.

 

Annual throughput was 1.8 per cent greater at 14.855m head. Defra figures show the total UK lamb and sheep flock was 0.6 per cent smaller in June 2019 at 33.569m head – the smallest total since 2014. The breeding flock was 1.2 per cent smaller than the year before.

 

New Zealand lamb prices remain high, following record prices earlier in the season. Chinese demand for New Zealand lamb is strong as the country seeks alternatives to pork.

 

The opening of the Chinese and Japanese markets to British lamb and beef may give markets here some extra support too.

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