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Stackyard News Feb 06

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Beef Outlook: Healthier Market Balance in Prospect

limousin cow

English beef producers can look forward to a healthier domestic beef market balance over the coming year than at any time in the past decade, according to the latest annual outlook from the English Beef & Lamb Executive (EBLEX).

Over half a million cows are forecast to re-enter the food chain in 2006 following the ending of the OTM scheme, producing an extra 155,000 tonnes of beef. This is against the background of strong UK demand for beef, declining prime cattle supplies, an increasing EU import requirement and growing prospects for exports.

Altogether the prospects are for a far more stable and sustainable national beef market without the sort of damaging price volatility seen in recent years.

On the face of it, the increase in beef coming onto the market in the year - an extra 10,000 cattle/week, on average - appears to carry considerable potential for disruption. 

However, the 160,000 head/year decline in calf passport registrations recorded by BCMS in 2005 - associated with lower retentions of purebred dairy bulls following the removal of BSP - is forecast to reduce 2006 prime beef supplies by over 40,000 tonnes; and this despite the increase in average carcase weights recorded over the past year.

As a result, overall UK beef production is expected to rise by around 100,000 tonnes on 2005 to around 850,000 tonnes. The fact that this remains substantially below the one million tonne-plus level of domestic consumption underlines the considerable room the market has to absorb the extra supplies without disruption. 

All the more so since, even after the OTM rule change is taken into account, the net EU-25 import requirement is set to rise to fully 350,000 tonnes in 2006 on the back of declining continental production; a situation which provides particular opportunities for English exports once current restrictions are finally lifted.

Year-end estimates show overall UK beef imports falling encouragingly in line with increased home production in 2005. However, at 24% the proportion of imported beef sold at retail was an increase on the 19% recorded in 2004.

With cow beef re-introduced into the food chain smoothly and without consumer resistance since last November, there will clearly no longer be any danger of seasonal shortages in domestic beef supply.

At the same time, the progressive re-opening of the unrestricted export market - hopefully from the early summer - seems likely to ensure a healthier continual balance between supply and demand, leading to greater market stability.

link Flocks Must Abide by New Identification Rules
link EBLEX Targets French Meat Lovers
link National Suckled Calf Show At Beef Expo 2006
link Check EBLEX for new OTM info

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