Meat & Livestock News

2024 Irish Beef Market Outlook and Its Implications for the UK

Mid section of woman pointing at meat in display at supermarket

The Irish beef sector is poised for a positive year in 2024, but what does this mean for the UK beef market? Here’s an overview of the key trends and forecasts.

2023: A Year of Strong Prices Despite Production Dip

In 2023, the Irish beef market saw robust finished cattle prices, particularly in the first quarter. This strength in pricing came amidst a 4.5% decrease in prime beef production compared to 2022, attributed to tighter supplies and lighter carcass weights. Beef exports from Ireland also declined, especially to EU markets and beyond, with trade to the UK remaining relatively stable.

2024 Forecast: Further Reduction in Irish Beef Production

Teagasc, the Irish Agriculture and Food Development Authority, predicts a 4% drop in Irish prime beef production in 2024, based on the current population data of 1-2-year-old animals.

Despite growth in the Irish dairy herd, which has offset the reduction in suckler cows, the total breeding herd has remained stable. In 2024, a stable dairy cow population is forecasted, with a larger proportion of beef expected to come from the dairy herd, leading to lighter average carcass weights and less beef processed per animal. Additionally, EU beef production is anticipated to decrease by 1% in 2024, following the continued contraction of dairy and suckler herds.

Record Live Exports Tighten Cattle Supplies

Irish cattle supplies have been further constrained by strong live exports, particularly calves to continental Europe. Government data indicates that up to 23 December 2023, total live cattle exports were nearly 16% higher than the previous year, with calf exports increasing by 21%.

Irish Cattle Prices: A Firm Outlook for 2024

With tighter cattle supplies both in Ireland and across the EU, finished cattle prices are expected to remain supported in 2024. Teagasc forecasts a 3% increase in the annual average Irish finished cattle price compared to last year.

Implications for the UK Market

The positive outlook for Irish cattle prices could bode well for British cattle prices, given the close relationship between the two markets. The UK price outlook may also be bolstered by several domestic retailers’ commitments to British sourcing. UK cattle slaughter is expected to remain similar to 2023 levels, with tighter cattle numbers anticipated towards 2025, potentially supporting cattle prices.

However, consumer demand will play a crucial role in shaping the market dynamics. A comprehensive analysis of the interactions within the UK market for 2024 will be explored in the upcoming market outlook publication.

In summary, the Irish beef market outlook for 2024 suggests a positive trend, with potential implications for the UK market, considering the intertwined nature of these two markets.