Irish beef supplies expected to increase this year

At last week’s Meat Market Seminar hosted by Bord Bia, presentations were delivered on developments in Ireland’s domestic market as well as many of its international markets.

It is crucial in the UK we are aware of developments in Irish beef production, as it has the potential to impact on the market situation with the UK market accounting for around half of Irish beef and veal exports.

Primarily as a result of the growth in aggregate cow numbers over the past few years, and a notable increase in calf registrations in 2014 and 2015, the number of cattle available for slaughter in 2016 is expected to be up on the year. Bord Bia estimates throughputs will be up between 50,000 and 80,000 head on last year’s levels. At the top end of this range, this would take slaughterings to a similar level to those in 2014. As well as an increase in calf registrations last year, there was a steep decline of 25 per cent in the volume of cattle exported out of Ireland on the back of relatively firm calf, weanling, store and finished cattle prices. Overall, in the year to 20 December the number of live exports was back almost 60,000 head on the year. Calf exports were 16 per cent down on the year and store cattle numbers were back over 40 per cent.

To compound the situation, with more cattle on the ground for finishing in Ireland, carcase weights may well stay elevated this year – they were up 5kg on average last year. Consequently, Irish beef and veal production is certainly going to be higher this year than it was in 2015.

While getting access to other key international markets has been a priority for the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) in recent years there has been no impact on supplies coming to the UK. The most high profile success has been getting access to the US last year, the first European country to do since the BSE export ban was imposed 20 years ago. However, trade to date has been just a fraction of the estimate made when the market opened given the problematic approval of manufacturing beef. As such, a significant proportion of the increased production could be available to the UK market at competitive prices, given the demand for Irish beef is likely to remain robust in some segments of the retail, foodservice and manufacturing sectors.