Irish beef throughputs begin to recover

Thursday, 25 June 2020

While GB cattle prices have rallied strongly over recent weeks, the post-coronavirus recovery of Ireland’s beef throughputs could cast uncertainty over their performance in the short-term.

Ireland’s beef sector has been particularly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, due to its reliance on exports to UK and European foodservice markets. In April, Irish fresh/frozen beef exports were down 35% to the EU and 18% to the UK year-on-year.

As a result of lower foodservice demand and furloughing of abattoir staff, Irish cattle throughput has been heavily reduced of late, by nearly 25% in some weeks during the height of the pandemic.

This means that currently, Irish abattoirs are around 37,000 head behind where they were for cattle slaughter at the same week last year, meaning there is still a substantial backlog of cattle to work through. Supplies will likely be plentiful for some time.

For sheep on the other hand, slaughterings of hoggets and spring lambs are 5% and 16% above what they were last year, respectively.

Cattle throughputs have been recovering in June, as abattoir capacity returns to normal and the UK and European foodservice sector slowly reopens. However, Irish cattle prices have not risen as GB prices have in the last few weeks, suggesting that any supplies that do come our way are likely to be more price-competitive.

Hannah Clarke

Analyst - Livestock

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