Irish beef exports to GB drops back in 2021

Thursday, 20 May 2021

By Charlie Reeve

During March, Irish cattle slaughter (incl. cows and calves) dropped back by 6.1% on the same month last year, according to according to Central Statistics Office data. Overall, Q1 Irish cattle slaughter fell by 13.6% year on year to total 434,100 head.

The reduced slaughter numbers are not unexpected, with higher slaughter throughputs last autumn tightening the supply of cattle available now. Industry estimates forecast a 3% fewer cattle to be slaughtered (50,000 head) during 2021. This tighter supply may be helping to support prices in Ireland, as well as also limiting the volume of beef available for export.


Global Irish beef exports during Q1 2021 were down 22% year on year, totalling 105,400 tonnes. Less beef was exported to GB with export volumes for the quarter back 38%, a reduction of 18,200 tonnes compared to the same period last year. Irish beef exports initially dropped back in January following the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, and have since been steadily recovering month on month.

Despite volumes dropping the value of Irish exports has not dropped as much, with high prices helping to make up for some of the reductions in volumes. Total Irish exports during Q1 totalled £463M, an annual decrease of only 7%.


Irish cattle prices have been on the rise in recent months. For the week ending 8 May, Irish R3 steers averaged €4.11/kg deadweight, up €0.63 on the same week last year. Looking at global prices, Irish prices have been narrowing the discount to prices here. Irish prices remain above current prices in New Zealand and Brazil but below those in Australia.

With high cattle prices in Great Britain, there is potential for exports from Ireland to increase in the coming months, possibly helped by the re-opening of the foodservice sector, although availability of production in Ireland may limit volumes to a degree.

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