Tightening supplies highlight export opportunities for beef

By Gwen Ridler

- Last updated on GMT

Tightening supplies of beef on the global market presents increased export opportunities for Welsh producers
Tightening supplies of beef on the global market presents increased export opportunities for Welsh producers

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Tightening supplies of beef on the global market presents increased export opportunities for Welsh producers and greater price stability going into 2025, according to Hybu Cig Cymru-Meat Promotion Wales (HCC).

“The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) outlook forecasts a tight supply of beef on the global market in 2024, with Ireland and the EU experiencing reduced production volumes,”​ explained Glesni Phillips, HCC’s market intelligence, analysis and business insight executive.

“As a result, beef continues to be in demand across the globe, which may provide support to the domestic market as opportunities for increased exports arise.”

Data from the British Cattle Movement Service (BCMS) suggested supply for the rest of the year would be plentiful, with the number of cattle aged 12-30 months up 2% compared to 2023.

UK Beef production volumes

Defra data shows the UK produced 900,600 tonnes of beef and veal in 2023, a decrease of 2% when compared to 2022 and the lowest annual volume produced since 2018.

HMRC state the UK exported almost 134,000 tonnes and imported around 291,200 tonnes of beef in 2023, a decrease of 4% on 2022 levels.

‘Supply will be tight’

“Cattle under 12 months of age as of 1st January were down 3% which suggest supply will be tight further down the line into 2025,”​ Phillips added. “In addition to this, a smaller breeding herd will lead to fewer calf registrations in 2024 and therefore fewer slaughter-ready animals becoming available into 2026 and beyond.”

This data, and the associated projections, are part of a new HCC report as part of the Between the Lines series, Beef Supply: Update and Outlook that considers the factors that impact on the beef sector’s supply, demand and price, now and in the medium term.

On prices, the report found that average deadweight prices for prime cattle categories in England and Wales were strong during 2023 and remained above year-earlier levels for the entirety of the year.

Steer average deadweight prices reached a high of £4.90 during mid-May last year but were since surpassed this year and reached £4.95 in March – 3% cent higher than year-earlier levels and a further 28% higher than the five-year average.

Deadweight prices

Deadweight prices for cull cows were more volatile with averages for the first half of the year trending above year-earlier levels and the second half below 2022 levels. The cull cow average peaked at £3.87 at the end of May –8% cent higher than the same period in 2022.

“At the time of writing, current averages were trending around £3.46, an increase of over 30p since the start of 2024 but below the corresponding period last year by some 35p,”​ Phillips continued.

Looking at demand, the market still contains positive signals. “Consumer experts Kantar reveal that over 80 per cent of British households bought beef at some point during the year.

“As cost-of-living pressures continue to influence consumer shopping and eating habits, mince sales continue to show strength in the retail sector. Looking at the total volume of beef sold at GB retail in 2023, mince accounted for 55 per cent of this volume, a notable uplift from 50 per cent in 2021.”

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