WALES

HCC: Pointers suggest future price stability in Beef market

Beef

The latest data suggests Welsh beef production is likely to see medium term price stability because supply is expected to tighten, Hybu Cig Cymru-Meat Promotion Wales’ (HCC) experts anticipate.

Posted on Apr 11 ,00:05

HCC: Pointers suggest future price stability in Beef market

Statistics from British Cattle Movement Service (BCMS) shows that the GB breeding herd stood at 2.7 million head in January 2024 - almost two per cent lower than January 2023 and a notable six per cent smaller when compared to January 2021.

However, in the short term, numbers may temporarily increase- and possibly impact on farmgate prices- before the expected tightening brings greater stability later in 2024.

This data, and the associated projections, are part of a new HCC report as part of the Between the Lines series, Beef Supply: Update and Outlook that considers the factors that impact on the beef sector’s supply, demand and price, now and in the medium term.

"The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) outlook forecasts a tight supply of beef on the global market in 2024, with Ireland and the EU experiencing reduced production volumes", said Glesni Phillips, HCC’s Market Intelligence, Analysis and Business Insight Executive and author of the report.

As a result, beef continues to be in demand across the globe, which may provide support to the domestic market as opportunities for increased exports arise. The BCMS data suggest supply for the remainder of this year will be plentiful as the number of cattle aged 12-30 months were up 2% compared to 2023. Cattle under 12months of age as of 1st January were down 3% which suggest supply will be tight further down the line into 2025. In addition to this, a smaller breeding herd will lead to fewer calf registrations in 2024 and therefore fewer slaughter-ready animals becoming available into 2026 and beyond.

On prices, the report reflects that average deadweight prices for prime cattle categories in England and Wales were strong during 2023 and remained above year-earlier levels for the entirety of the year. Steer average deadweight prices reached a high of £4.90 during mid-May last year, but current averages have surpassed this and reached £4.95 in March of this year – some 3 per cent higher than year-earlier levels, and a further 28 per cent higher than the longer-term five-year average.

Deadweight prices for cull cows were more volatile with averages for the first half of the year trending above year-earlier levels and the second half below 2022 levels. The cull cow average peaked at £3.87 at the end of May – which was some eight per cent higher than the same period in 2022.

“At the time of writing, current averages were trending around £3.46, an increase of over 30p since the start of 2024 but below the corresponding period last year by some 35p,” said Glesni.

She said Defra data shows the UK produced 900,600 tonnes of beef and veal in 2023, a decrease of two per cent when compared to 2022 and the lowest annual volume produced since 2018. “HMRC state the UK exported almost 134,000 tonnes and imported around 291,200 tonnes of beef in 2023, a decrease of four per cent on 2022 levels.

Looking at demand, the market still contains positive signals. Consumer experts Kantar reveal that over 80 per cent of British households bought beef at some point during the year.

"As cost-of-living pressures continue to influence consumer shopping and eating habits, mince sales continue to show strength in the retail sector. Looking at the total volume of beef sold at GB retail in 2023, mince accounted for 55 per cent of this volume, a notable uplift from 50 per cent in 2021", said Glesni.

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