ICMSA Officers.
Pic: Don Moloney

ICMSA complain that Irish Beef prices trail UK counterparts by up to 64c/kg and disparity being ‘normalised’.

The Chairperson of ICMSA’s Livestock Committee, Michael O’Connell, has accused beef processors of cutting farmer prices ‘under the radar’ over the past few weeks and leaving Irish prices “absolutely adrift” of their UK counterparts.

“As beef finishers face into the most expensive quarter of the year in terms of finishing cattle, we’ve seen the factories cutting beef prices ‘under the radar’ over the past few weeks.  After last year’s record summer and autumn store cattle prices, the factories have knocked the confidence out of winter finishers with unwarranted price cuts. Irish beef processors are quoting €5 – €5.05c/kg for steers, while heifers command 5c/kg more at €5.05 – 5.10c/kg.  Lately, the factories seem intent on absolutely wiping out young bull finishers, with some factories turning away young bulls while others are imposing weight penalties. It was agreed in the 2019 beef agreement that changes to specifications of weights by processors were to be communicated with farmers. That certainly doesn’t seem to be what’s happened here”, said Mr. O’Connell.

Mr. O’Connell said it was an ‘age-old’ trick by processors to cut beef price in the first few weeks of the new year in a bid to control the live trade and allow the factory feedlots to restock to cushion the late spring/early summer period.   But thankfully, the mart trade remains quite strong for all types of beef cattle and despite the price cuts over the past few weeks, trade seems to be firming up with no reported changes to quoted price this week.  The ICMSA Livestock Chairperson said that there was “a sense of tightness” about coming cattle supplies, even factoring-in the few short kill weeks coming due to the bank holidays.

“We are very concerned about the way that the ‘lag’ or disparity between Irish beef prices and their UK counterparts is being normalised. Tighter cattle supplies and firm demand in the UK have meant deadweight beef prices there have remained strong with the average R3 steer price increasing to €5.78/kg  (equivalent to £4.98/kg) for the week ending February 25, 2024.  By comparison, for the week ending February 25, 2024, the average price paid by Irish beef processors for R3 steers decreased slightly to €5.14/kg.   Not alone is this badly trailing the UK price, but it’s 12c/kg behind the corresponding week in 2023 when the R3 steer price was €5.26/kg. The reported R3 heifer during the week ending February 25, 2024, decreased by 2c/kg to €5.19/kg, placing it 10c/kg behind the corresponding week in 2023.”

Explaining that all prices were exclusive of VAT, Mr. O’Connell said that what he termed “inexplicable disparities” between Irish and UK beef prices were now so long-standing that they were being normalised. He said that the factories continue to play games with farmers, there is clearly stronger returns from the marketplace than what is being returned to farmers and with cattle numbers expected to get tighter in the coming weeks, Mr. O’Connell said, that farmers should shop around to ensure they receive the best possible price for their cattle.

Ends      6 March 2024

Michael O’Connell, 086-8551015

Chairperson, ICMSA Livestock Committee


Cathal MacCarthy, 087-6168758

ICMSA Press Office