Prices fall to three year low for Scottish beef producers

Scottish farmers and crofters producing beef are facing adverse conditions
Scottish farmers and crofters producing beef are facing adverse conditions

Scotland’s beef producers are experiencing a significant collapse in the market as prices fall to a three-year low.

Brexit-fueled uncertainty, an over-supplied market and a €100 million bail out deal for Irish beef farmers have all contributed to the decline in prices.

According to Quality Meat Scotland, the deadweight steer price in Scotland hit a three-year low of 344 p/kg in March.

While the market was appearing to rally in April, recent weeks have seen the gap between 2018 and 2019 prices widen further.

Before March 2019, the last time that the steer price averaged 344 p/kg was in the week of the European Union referendum in 2016.

A lack of clarity and certainty on the terms of the UK’s exit from the European Union, trading arrangements and detail on a future agricultural policy for Scotland have fuelled uncertainty.

NFU Scotland livestock committee chairman, Jimmy Ireland, said politicians must recognise the seriousness of the issue, which is a 'crisis not of farmers’ making'.

“When some supermarket burgers are retailing for more than 660 p/kg and Scotch sirloins going for more than 2200 p/kg, somebody is clearly making a living from the Scottish beef sector, but it’s not those producing beef on Scotland’s farms and crofts.

Earlier this year, NFU Scotland carried out a shelf watchon beef which identified that over 90 per cent of beef products in Scottish supermarkets was either Scottish or British.

But while farmers welcomed the results, the sector fears it's not translating into anything near a sustainable farm gate price.

Mr Ireland said: “Those who finish beef cattle on farm need to have the confidence that they will make a fair return from the market if the whole beef supply chain is to work.

“Their confidence is reflected in the price they then pay for their store calves and this just isn’t happening now.

“To add insult to injury, the Irish have received ‘emergency support’ of up to €100 million from the European Commission and the Irish government, with Brexit uncertainty being cited as the reason.

“The Irish may be facing Brexit uncertainty but that doesn’t come close to describing the current political situation here in Scotland and the lack of market confidence it inspires.”

He added: “In March, we thought we would be out of Europe, then in April we thought the same, and now we are told that it could be October, and there could be a deal, or maybe not?”

NFU Scotland will be appearing at the Royal Highland Show this week seeking a commitment from Scottish government, processors and retailers to better support the beef sector.