Irish beef update: Throughput, trade and prices

Friday, 20 November 2020


A total of 1.5 million beef cattle have been processed in Ireland in the year to the 26 October, according to government figures. This is 3% (45,400 head) greater than the same period in 2019. Throughputs of steers and heifers are up by 14% and 2%, respectively, on the same period in 2019, while cull cow throughputs are 4% higher. Young bull throughputs are down 34% year-on-year, with fewer adult bulls also processed so far.


Irish beef exports (incl. fresh and frozen, processed and offal) between January and September totalled 374,100 tonnes, down 5% on the same period in 2019. Shipments into the rest of the EU were down 9% year-on-year at 144,800 tonnes, while exports to non-EU countries (including the UK) were down -2% at 229,300 tonnes.

At a country level, the largest falls in exports were to the UK (-9,200 tonnes, -6%), and to France (-4,300 tonnes, -11%), with exports lower to most other key EU member states. Further afield, shipments grew to countries including Japan (+2,400 tonnes), the US (+2,300 tonnes) and Canada (+1,700 tonnes) among others. However, it was not enough to offset losses elsewhere.

Live cattle trade continues to run below that of last year, with overall exports in the year to 7 November down 11% to 245,443 head, according to the Irish Food Board, Bord Bia. This is primarily due to fewer calves being traded into other EU countries, which has outweighed growth in non-EU shipments. Overall calf trade numbers are down 28% on the year.


Average Irish R3 steer prices are currently running around 16 eurocents above where they were at the same point last year, averaging €3.60/kg in the week ending 8 November. The gap between the Irish price and EU average has widened in the last few weeks, although both are still on a downward trajectory. The Irish price is currently around 10 eurocents below the EU average price, and around half a Euro below the UK price, which has largely continued to strengthen. The increasingly competitive pricing of Irish cattle may have helped boost imports into the UK during September, alongside increased foodservice activity.

Hannah Clarke

Analyst - Livestock

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