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Long Term UK Beef Supply to Remain Tight

14 February 2014


UK - Supply of beef and veal in the UK is expected to be modestly up on last year’s position, although indications for the longer term suggest a fundamentally tight supply situation will be maintained, according to AHDB Market Intelligence/EBLEX latest forecasts.

The DEFRA June 2013 census recorded a decline in dairy and suckler breeding herds, but an increase in one to two-year-old female beef cattle on the previous year.

With heifer slaughterings in 2013 above 2012, it is likely most older females recorded were destined for slaughter rather than for breeding. However, a reduction in cow culls indicates the liquidation of breeding stock has slowed.

The census, supported by British Cattle Movement Service (BCMS) data, indicates the potential for a modest increase in short-term slaughter supplies, with increases in male cattle over two years and of one to two years of age. With market conditions in the final quarter of 2013 failing to encourage producers to sell cattle, some extra cattle are expected to come forward in the first half of 2014, so prime cattle slaughterings are forecast to be modestly up on 2013 levels.

Looking further ahead, BCMS data from October indicates the number of cattle under one year of age, both male and female, was back on the year, which has implications for the longer-term supply of quality beef. BCMS calf birth registrations to November were also more than 80,000 lower than a year earlier.

Poor weather and low feed availability resulted in lower carcase weights in 2013 than in 2012, but they are expected to return to a more ‘normal’ position in 2014, leading to an increase prime cattle production of a modest two per cent, equivalent to 865,000 tonnes.

Cow and adult bull throughputs increased in early 2013, due to producers’ concerns over low feed availability and high cull values, following robust demand for manufacturing beef after the horse meat issue. With a younger herd in 2014, adult slaughterings are forecast to be reduced.

The export trade, mainly for cow beef, will be influenced by available supply and domestic demand in 2014.

Export volumes are forecast to remain level. Firm demand for manufacturing beef in 2014 is likely to support export prospects, however, the strengthening value of sterling could erode this by making it less competitive on the Continent.

Imports in 2014 are expected to be ahead of 2013, with the continued increase in production in Ireland and Brazil, as well as the resumption of shipments from Botswana. Imports of processed beef are also forecast to increase, as demand continues to recover following the horse meat revelations.

Actual and forecast UK beef and veal consumption (‘000 tonnes)
  2012 2013 2014
    Estimate Forecast
Production 882 848 865
Imports 409 399 410
(Fresh/frozen) (295) (300) (305)
(Processed) (115) (99) (96)
Exports 143 128 130
Total consumption 1,148 1,119 1,145

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