Irish beef exports taking a big sterling hit

The €1 billion market is slumping...

Farming, EU, beef, Government, South America, imports

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Ireland is producing a bigger supply of beef than ever, but UK demand is slumping hard due to the weakened sterling.

New figures from the UK's Revenue and Customs service shows a 13% year-on-year fall in the amount of beef imported during September.

A total of 14,356 tonnes of beef was bought by Britain, down from the 16,4999 tonnes imported in 2015.

According to the Irish Independent, roughly half of the 500,000 tonnes of beef Ireland exported last year – with a value of €2.41bn – went to the UK.

The UK's Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board has stated that the fall in Irish imports comes despite lower Irish prices due to higher production, as the UK increases its own domestic supplies. 

Ireland remains the UK's biggest source for beef imports. The 129,739 tonnes imported from Ireland during 2016 represents 75% of the UK's total beef imports from EU countries.

Despite this, we could be faced with an oversupply soon. The beef kill in 2016 is estimated by Bord Bia to be close to 1.64 million head, up 80,000 on 2015. Meanwhile the highest beef kill in 12 years is predicted for 2017, and cattle suupplies could be 120,000 head higher next year as well.

Joe Healy, president of the Irish Farmers' Association (IFA), has noted that, with over 50% of our beef exports going to the UK, the weakened sterling presents a major challenge. However, the IFA says that currency volatility is not the only determinant of price returns and higher prices are both justified and necessary.