Beef crisis: prices slump as Brexit threat looms


'Make-or-break year' for sector

No-deal UK exit to 'wipe out sector'

Vets' dispute disrupting trade


Declan O'Brien and Martin Coughlan, Independent (Ireland)

January 8 2019


THE beef sector is at crisis point due to the continuing slump in factory prices and the threat of a no-deal Brexit, farm leaders are warning.


Beef farmers will be directly in the firing line of a no-deal Brexit.


The Government will be looking for a "mega-money" aid package from the EU to offset the damage.


The pre-Christmas slump in cattle prices carried over into the new year, with factory quotes unchanged and farmers struggling to get stock killed.


Adding to the existing problems, a 'work-to-rule' protest by temporary veterinary inspectors (TVIs) is seriously disrupting operations at slaughter plants.


ICSA beef chairman Edmund Graham predicted that 2019 will be a make-or-break year for many beef farmers.


"As it stands, many farmers are on the brink of giving up. It simply isn't economic to produce beef at current prices.


"When we factor in Brexit uncertainty and the risk of a no-deal outcome, the potential for things to get worse has many farmers ready to pull the plug on unprofitable systems," he told the Farming Independent.


Base quotes for steers and heifers remain on 3.75/kg and 3.85/kg respectively, with cows making 2.50-2.80/kg for P and O grades, and up to 3/kg for R grades.


However, meat plants are not anxious for numbers and some farmers are waiting up to a fortnight to get stock slaughtered.


The problem is particularly acute for bulls, with factories showing very little interest in Friesian bulls. While coloured bulls are being quoted at 3.50-3.80/kg for O to U grades, a flat price of 3.50/kg is being paid for Friesians.


IFA livestock chairman Angus Woods said winter finishers were "shipping major losses", with prices 25c/kg or 90/hd below this time last year.


Mr Woods called on Agriculture Minister Michael Creed to target a doubling of live exports in 2019 from last year's level of 190,000hd.


He said such a move would create real competition for cattle on the home market.


IFA president Joe Healy warned if the UK crashes out of the EU "we are facing a far more serious situation and the potential wipeout of beef production in this country".


Mr Healy called on Mr Creed to provide more detail on the aid package he says Ireland will demand from Brussels in the event of a hard Brexit. Mr Creed estimated it will be in the "hundreds of millions" and referred to "mega-money".


Mr Graham said intervention buying of beef will be needed on a major scale if the UK exits the EU with no deal and WTO tariffs apply...