Coronavirus adding uncertainty to UK beef market

The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) market analyst Hannah Clarke is reporting that the coronavirus outbreak is adding uncertainty to beef market conditions in the UK.

“Beef is selling, but consumers are reportedly adopting “recessionary” shopping behaviour, favouring cheaper cuts as well as stockpiling. There is also uncertainty over potential future staff shortages in abattoirs, and what that might mean for throughput going forwards,” she explained.

There don’t seem to be any reports of processing capacity being affected so far.

Prices remained stable

Overall, prime deadweight cattle prices in the UK remained stable for the week ending 14 March. The all-prime price rose by 0.2p on the week to average 335.4p/kg, now down just 0.8p on the same week in 2019.

Heifers recorded a more positive week than steers, with the overall heifer price rising by a penny to average 337.5p/kg. Beasts meeting R4L spec, however, fell by half a penny to average 346p/kg.

The overall steer price dipped by 0.3p to average 335.4p/kg, while those of R4L spec lost 0.1p on the week to average 346.9p/kg.

Young bulls showed positive movement, with the overall price rising by 0.9p to average 314.5p/kg. Those of R3 spec gained 0.2p, while those of R4L spec gained 6.9p on the week.

Estimated prime cattle slaughter in the UK totalled 34,900 head, up 480 head on last week.

According to AHDB, cull cow prices showed another positive week, with the overall price up 0.7p to average 234.3p/kg. Those of -O4L spec gained 0.3p to average 253.4p/kg.

Demand for cows is still reportedly keen at present with numbers holding well. Estimated slaughter numbers were 10,200 head, down 590 head on the week.

In Northern Ireland, the Livestock and Meat Commission (LMC) is reporting an average deadweight steer price of 332.4p/kg for the week ending 14 March. Heifers, young bulls and cull cows averaged 333.2p; 314.5 and 237.2p respectively.

Meanwhile, AHDB is also reporting that UK exports of fresh and frozen beef recorded strong growth in January, totalling 11,300t. This figure represents an almost 20% jump on the previous year. This comes after December data recorded comparatively smaller growth (5%).

Shipments to all major export destinations increased in January. Exports to Ireland, the largest export destination, increased by 13%, to 3,500t.

Shipments to Hong Kong (+300t), the Philippines (+250t) and the Netherlands (+350t) all recorded year-on-year increases in volumes.