April 2022 Meat Market Report

As with the crop market report, the war in Ukraine dominates this month’s report. Whilst we will see prices rise for a number of reasons explained below, the humanitarian crisis is of course occupying all of our minds.

Beef

Prices for all categories have risen and remain well above their respective 5-year averages with steers, young bulls and heifers up 1.1p, 2.1p and 2.7p respectively.

Cull cow prices continue on a steep upwards track, helped by the seasonal uptake by processors getting prepared for summer demand against a global background of rising beef trim prices, with some producers having a shortfall of approximately 3-tonnes per week. Other countries are offering more money for trims, which is putting our own market under increased pressure. Prices increased by 11.2p this week to 309.7p/kg, up 19% on the same time last year and the first time we have recorded a price over 300p/kg for this category.

GB overall average deadweight cow price

In 2022 so far, 144,000 tonnes of beef and veal has been produced, 5% less than at the same point a year ago. Prime slaughter has been 311,000 head, down 6%, and cow slaughter has been 105,000 head, down 2%.

Bought feed is becoming increasingly expensive putting margins under pressure. It is likely that feed will be used as sparingly as possible, although this hasn’t yet shown through in slaughter weights. No doubt producers will be looking to turn out animals as soon as the weather allows.

Lamb

Lamb prices have diverged in trend with liveweight prices falling and deadweight rising.

The latest Defra slaughter data release puts UK lamb slaughter at 864,900 head in February, up 10% on February 2021 levels. January and February 2021 lamb slaughter levels were also revised, increasing from previously published levels, by a combined 50,000 head. However, recorded slaughter in late 2021 may still be lower than actual slaughter, based upon data from other sources.

Adult sheep slaughter for the month stood at 95,900 head, up 10% on the year. Recorded adult sheep kill has been at an exceptionally low level since August 2020, as with lamb, there are several reasons to suggest it may be higher than has been recorded.

Looking into the coming months for sheep meat production, we are likely to see an uplift in demand for cull ewes, with the Islamic festival of Ramadan beginning on 2 April. Also, in the back end of March demand for Easter lambs will begin, with Easter falling on Sunday 17 April this year. It will be the first Easter since 2019 which won’t be affected by COVID-19 (we hope).

Pork

Despite remaining stable in recent months, reports of slightly tighter pig supplies on the continent are giving a feeling that prices could start to rise in the very near future.

Europe continues to have a plentiful supply of pork but across the whole of the EU, supplies of pigs on farms appear to be easing back. This is positive both in terms of processors’ ability to handle them, and possible future price developments. A bottleneck at the point of slaughter (i.e. more pigs than slaughter capacity) has been one of the key pressures on prices over the past six months, in addition to the large supply of pork for consumption. While in Europe this pressure has been slightly eased, in the UK the number of pigs ready for slaughter continues to exceed slaughter capacity, which has been an ongoing problem for the last few months.

Poultry

Due to the war in Ukraine, we have seen dramatic increases and shortages throughout the poultry sector. There are many factors as to why there has been increases and shortages. Firstly, Ukraine and Russia supply around 30% of the World’s wheat and grain exports, which has seen over a 30% increase in cost. See the crop market report for more detail.

EU poultry production has been under pressure of late due to the Bird Flu outbreak towards the end of last year. Millions of birds were subsequently culled, and supply has been tight while producers look to replenish their stocks. The Polish Government have now reduced the exports of poultry, in favour of keeping its internal stock for distribution among their own population, as well as to meet the needs of new refugees. Russia normally exports poultry to 3rd World countries, which has now ceased. These countries are now looking to Europe for supply, and that is leading to more pressure and additional strain on European and the rest of the World markets for poultry. Holland relied heavily on Ukraine for poultry products which are now no longer available. Poland is the largest poultry exporter in the UK, amounting to 20% of all UK poultry imports.

The poultry market was on weekly pricing but that has now changed to daily pricing. Due to the lack of imports, pressure is now firmly placed on the UK market.

Further Effects

Russia produces 2/3 of the World’s ammonium nitrate, which is the main fertiliser that farmers use for crops, grass and livestock farming. Half of the World’s population gets their food as a result of these fertilisers.

The price has soared from £200 per tonne to £1000 per tonne over the last couple of years. Russia had already placed a ban on all exports on this from 1st February.

The UK feed wheat futures (May-22) rose for the sixth consecutive session yesterday, up £18.00/t to close at a record £303.00/t. However, only 150 contracts were traded during the day, the lowest traded daily volume since 17 February 2022 (Refinitiv). New crop (Nov-22) also rose (£11.00/t) from Friday’s close to £249.00/t, a contract high.

Markets are said to have paused while traders wait to see the outcome of several international tenders this week. These will allow greater insight into the price and availability of wheat.

Oil and gas prices have already risen with approximately 30% of European oil and 39% of gas sourced from Russia, the knock-on effect will be felt everywhere. Despite the Black Sea supply turmoil, improving conditions in Argentina have removed a bit of the heat.

This increased uncertainty to global supply, when the outlook was already tight before the conflict began, is adding additional support to surging oil prices. And this is being felt here in the UK at the pumps.

Equally, with gas prices soaring and availability restrictions being threatened, there is no let-up on the horizon for fertiliser prices. Even for those UK growers who are covered for this season, it would be mindful to think ahead to 2022/23 and the potential cost of replacing supplies should the war in Ukraine continue for some time.

We will continue to monitor the situation from our perspective and report on the direct effects it may have on your business.

Share this Post