Beef farmers could see a difficult year in 2016 with the market set to be well supplied in the new year.
Indications show the beef market could be well stocked on both sides of the Irish sea next year, which experts believe is likely to keep a lid on UK prices.
The industry has already raised concerns prices have not yet risen significantly as the trade approaches peak procurement for the Christmas period, when producers often market their best stock, despite current tight UK supplies.
Debbie Butcher, senior analyst at AHDB Beef and Lamb, said: “Our farmgate prices have not really moved in the last month or so. We might be expecting prices to start to rise at this time of the year.”
Ms Butcher suggested this may be due to the impact of imports on the UK beef market.
“We are currently producing less, our production is lower but the market is in balance. We might read into this there is more coming in from elsewhere,” she said.
Stuart Ashworth, head of economic services at Quality Meat Scotland (QMS), underlined Ms Butcher’s comments. He said Christmas farmgate trade often received a boost but suggested this may be due to producers marketing their best quality stock at this time.
“There is no significant reason to say why there should be a sudden spike in beef prices otherwise,” he said.
Looking at last year’s calving data to give an indication of cattle coming to slaughter age next year, he claimed there could be a slight increase in both Great British and Scottish supplies.
This potential for a slight increase in supplies is likely to be met with an increase in the Irish beef herd. Ireland accounts for a significant amount of UK beef imports and both AHDB and QMS suggested high availability of Irish beef could hit UK prices.
Consumer appetite for beef remains stagnant, experts have said.
Richard King, partner at farm consultants Andersons, said consumer demand for beef remained ‘lacklustre’.
He said: “It seems people are not buying beef with the gusto they did before the economic crisis [which started in 2008]. This may be a long-term change in buying habits.”
This was underlined by Mr Ashworth, who suggested consumer demand could limit farmgate prices.
He said: “I do not see any evidence of consumer willingness to spend more on food. It frustrates the life out of our industry the way the general consumer values food.”