NBA Says Retailers Manipulate Cheap Irish Beef

UK - Processors operating in Northern Ireland, many of whom also own plants in mainland Britain, are importing huge numbers of live animals from the Republic of Ireland (ROI) for immediate slaughter and this is pulling down prime cattle prices across the UK.
calendar icon 8 April 2009
clock icon 2 minute read

The National Beef Association says that it has for some time been puzzled by the drag on the overall market created by inexplicably low at slaughter cattle values in Northern Ireland – despite tight regional supplies of finished cattle and a 25 per cent year on year rise in retail beef prices.

However the Livestock and Meat Commission (LMC) in Northern Ireland (NI) has confirmed that over January-February live deliveries of slaughter cattle into the Province from the ROI increased by 60 per cent compared with the same time last year.

And at the end March fully 1,080 head, amounting to 15 per cent of total prime cattle throughput were imported into NI in just one week even though adverse sterling-euro exchange rates made the cattle at least as expensive, and in many cases more expensive, than those available in NI itself.

“We know that UK processors have been trying for weeks to resist rising slaughter cattle prices and after spotting this surge in imports cannot help concluding they have decided that the Northern Ireland market is open to relatively easy manipulation through the importation of cattle,” explained NBA Northern Ireland chairman, Oisin Murnion.

“It would appear that it is worth paying well above the odds, in sterling terms, for 15 per cent of cattle processed if the extra numbers make it easier to force down the value of the remaining 85 per cent.”

“This is bad news for feeders in Northern Ireland who have struggled for the last twelve years with the lowest prices paid in the UK but it is also bad news for mainland finishers because the increase in beef taken from cheaper cattle in NI puts a drag on the value of their own stock too.”

“Beef farmers in the Republic of Ireland are also angry at the heavy discounting of their cattle at a time when their own supplies, and those in the UK, are so tight.”

“And have concluded that they too are victims of an organized attempt by the many companies that have plants in both the UK and the ROI to play off the two national markets against each other thereby pulling down the price of beef cattle in both countries,” Mr. Murnion added.

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