Hot September weather fuels hopes of autumn beef demand

Hybu Cig Cymru-Meat Promotion Wales’ (HCC) said the early September weather could further boost prices after a 'disappointing' summer
Hybu Cig Cymru-Meat Promotion Wales’ (HCC) said the early September weather could further boost prices after a 'disappointing' summer

The recent September sunshine has fuelled hope of an increase in demand for beef going into the autumn.

Hybu Cig Cymru-Meat Promotion Wales’ (HCC) said the hot weather could further boost prices after a 'disappointing' summer.

According to its analysis, prices in recent days have picked up again as back-to-school demand, along with the weather, provided some 'much-needed additional impetus'.

Going into September, the average deadweight price for steers in England and Wales had recorded three consecutive weeks of price increases to stand at 460.5p/kg.

This average is some 29p higher than year-earlier levels and almost 83p higher than the longer term 5-year average, HCC's analysis shows.

Glesni Phillips, HCC intelligence insight executive, explained more: “Looking back through the year so far, deadweight prime cattle prices were also very strong during the first few months of 2023.

"But by late spring, driven largely by the cost of living crisis, the average was showing small week-on-week declines.

“Then the consistently cool summer weather impacted on demand for traditional BBQ cuts,” she said.

Data from Kantar suggests steaks and mince have still performed well but the total volume of beef sold at British retail was down 2% on the year and some 20% below levels seen for this period in both 2021 and 2020.

Ms Phillips said: “However, 2023 sales volumes are higher than recorded pre-Covid (in 2019), which is a real positive.

"It must be remembered that 2021 and 2020 figures included periods of lockdown during covid, when the foodservice sector was closed and substantially increased sales volumes were experienced by the whole grocery sector at retail,” said Glesni.

Data from BCMS on numbers of prime cattle on the ground suggest supply should be plentiful on the market during the remainder of this year but might be tight in the future.

According to figures from Defra, UK slaughterings for the first half of the year are slightly ahead (1%) of year-earlier levels.

However, July recorded low throughput figures, down 4% on June at 166,000 head, perhaps as a result of lower farmgate prices influencing on-farm decisions.

At the time of writing, the current UK average for steers stood some 10% higher than both the EU and Ireland average, which would be weighing on the competitiveness of the product on the global market.

Prices in both Ireland and the EU have followed a similar trend to that experienced in the UK since around mid-May.

Ireland remains the dominant market for both UK beef exports and imports, however it is reported that the supply of Irish cattle is tight at the moment which is impacting beef import levels, but it is uncertain how long this will last.