Could a rise in Irish beef supplies be on the horizon?

Thursday, 13 August 2020

By Rebecca Wright

Recent industry reports indicate the current beef supply in Ireland is tight. The latest data suggests this is the case, but for how long could the tighter situation remain?

COVID-19 regulations, attractive furlough type schemes in Ireland and a reduction in export opportunities meant that during April and May cattle kill declined significantly. Through June and July there was some year-on-year uplift in weekly kill figures. By the start of August year-to-date kill was 25,000 head lower on-the-year.

Despite kill being lower in the year-to-date, during the second half of 2020 the number of cattle available to kill could still be tighter year-on-year. On 1 June the number of cattle (excluding cows) in Ireland under 36 months totalled 4.7 million, up 1% (52,000 head) year-on-year. However, this figure includes 121,000 more calves, offsetting the 70,000 head drop in  animals aged between 12 and 36 months.

But, although there are fewer cattle available to kill, there could still be some year-on-year growth during August and September. During those months last year there were protests and blockades at many Irish abattoirs over prices received by farmers which limited throughputs. The backlog from the reduced kill took until the latter part of Q1 2020 to be cleared.

However, new COVID-19 regulations mean that if abattoirs have staff members which test positive for the virus then they will be closed for at least two weeks. This could put pressure on kill capacity if enough abattoirs are forced to close.

Overall, there is likely to be tighter supply from Ireland for the remainder of 2020, but looking further forwards there is potential for a large volume of Irish beef to appear on the market. The number of calves on the ground has increased significantly. Much of the increase is again due to COVID-19, which limited calf export opportunities earlier this year. This may very well mean there are increased Irish beef supplies in 12 to 18 months time. 

Rebecca Wright

Analyst - Red Meat

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