By Stephen Cadogan

Northern Ireland beef prices dragged down

By Stephen Cadogan

Cheap cattle south of the border are one of three major reasons why far mers in Northern Ireland get 14p/kg less for beef cattle than their colleagues in mainland Britain.

According to an cheap jerseys investigation by Oxford Economics of the price differential, the availability of a cheaper supply in the Republic of Ireland tends to constrain Northern Ireland prices relative to GB.

The Oxford Economics report recommends continued monitoring of deadweight beef prices north and south to build on knowledge of the price differentials.

Before BSE hit the UK in 1996, NI beef prices were, for a short time, higher than Great Britain, due to high value contracts in European markets and a favourable exchange rate.

But the following years of closed export markets, and periods of intervention, saw re emergence of a price differential with GB.

Since 2009, with more fluid markets, farmgate beef prices increased sharply across the UK, but the NI GB price gap remains a source of frustration for farmers, averaging 14p/kg from 2009 to 2012 for R3 steers.

According to the North’s Livestock and Meat Commission and Oxford Economics (which the Commission appointed to investigate), a renewed focus of UK retailers on local (British) sourcing has now left Republic of Ireland prime cattle prices even further behind.

The ROI drag on NI prime cattle prices has therefore reduced, and the price differential has narrowed.

This emphasis on British sourced product has also contributed to doubling of exports from NI for direct slaughter to GB in the last year. Another major factor seen behind the differential is the additional cost of and barriers to the trade from NI into GB markets.

The report says the additional cost of transport of live cattle to GB processors (over and above transport costs within NI) is 10 12p/kg. The additional cost of transporting beef to GB is estimated to be 3 6p/kg.

TB restrictions on movement are also identified as a barrier to the sale of live cattle from Northern Ireland to GB.

A range of other factors add additional costs for the NI beef industry in servicing its main market.

And the more seasonal cattle supply in Northern Ireland, with 27.4% of cattle slaughtered in the autumn, further reduces prices in Northern Ireland and adds to processor costs.

Meanwhile, northern farmers have also pinpointed beef from the South as a problem, with Oisin Murnion, Chairman of the Northern Ireland National Beef Association, saying it is not up to the North’s Farm Quality Assured Standard.

He also pointed the finger at Polish beef, saying a substantial quantity is arriving into the UK, and alle ging that it is at a discounted price and some is re labelled as Irish.

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