LMC Report: Beef Prices In NI Lower Than Scotland

NORTHERN IRELAND, UK - The differential between Northern Ireland (NI) farmgate prices and equivalent prices in Great Britain (GB) has been a source of frustration for NI farmers in recent years. The differential was particularly wide early this year when the Scottish R3 heifer price was 25p/kg higher than the equivalent figure in NI.
calendar icon 6 August 2010
clock icon 3 minute read

However, as the year progressed, this differential narrowed to less than 8p/kg, before widening again. While NI prices did not come into line with Scottish levels at any stage between January and July, NI R3 heifer prices were higher than those in two English regions at various points during that period and the gap between NI and overall GB price has generally been narrower in 2010 to date compared with 2009. 

It is clear that Scottish prices have generally been 10- 20p/kg higher than NI prices since the start of the year, while South England prices have generally been lower. It is also clear that for a short spell from April to June, NI prices were on a par with reported prices in GB, with the difference having narrowed steadily throughout the spring. Unfortunately for producers here, the main reason for the narrower differential in the spring was not a steady increase in local prime cattle prices, but a steady decline in prices in GB.

On average, NI R3 heifer prices have almost been on a par with prices in the English Midlands & Wales  over the course of the year-to-date at 267p/kg. This is about 6p/kg lower than the equivalent price for the whole of GB and about 15p/kg lower than corresponding price in Scotland. This is similar to last year (Jan-July), when the gap between R3 heifer prices in Scotland and NI was around 17p/kg.

It is worth noting that NI producers are not the only ones left envious of Scottish prices. In the first seven months of last year, North England R3 heifer prices were on a par with those in Scotland. This year North England prices are on average 6p/kg lower than the corresponding Scottish prices and although North England prices increased sharply in July to close that gap, prices in the rest of England remain well behind those in Scotland. NI, Republic of Ireland, England Midlands and Wales and South England prices are all bunched together in July while Scottish and English prices are ahead of the rest.

With prices under sustained pressure in NI recently, producers will not be surprised to learn that over recent months, the price gap between here and mainland UK has widened again. In the penultimate week of July, R3 heifer prices in NI were 16p/kg lower than the corresponding Scottish and English price (the English price has since fallen sharply). The likely impact of this is an increase in the live cattle trade to GB. Back in January when the differential was wider, an average of 250 cattle per week were being shipped to GB for direct slaughter. The changes in relative prices described above led to a reduction in the number shipped to less than 100 head per week during April. With higher relative prices in Scotland and Northern England there may be renewed incentive to export and there was a gradual increase in the number of cattle shipped to GB between May and early July.

Further Reading

- You can view the full report by clicking here.

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