This is a hugely challenging and volatile time for all farming sectors following on from Brexit related issues in 2019 and beef factory prices over the Winter/Spring period. It will continue to be an uncertain period for some time to come until restrictions begin to ease and we see some level of normality returning to our day to day lives, which unfortunately seems some way off at this stage.
Marts – the majority of marts currently generating business have gone on-line over the past few months. Young stock have been a very good trade over the past few weeks as the May 15th deadline fast approaches to meet with the Departments seven month stocking requirements. Up to 90% of cattle are being sold during online sales as the number of users has gradually grown over the weeks with farmers getting used to new technology and methods of sale. It is proving an extremely popular add on and will definitely have a role to play going forward.
Many farmers have returned to private/farm to farm sales using various classified websites, most notably Done-Deal. There has been a strong market for sales over the past month and taken some pressure off many farmers unable to access marts at this time.
Marts are scheduled to re-open on June 8th, however it will by no means be a return to normal business. New social distancing rules will be strictly enforced otherwise sanctions can be applied to individual marts.
Dairy – The spread of COVID-19 has had a dramatic impact on international dairy markets, in particular the food service sector with restaurants, airlines and hotels across Europe adversely affected. Milk destined for food service customers has switched to other production areas such as powder and butter. This has created a significant oversupply with a severely reduced market demand which has depressed the price paid to farmers. Irish dairy processors export 92% of all product produced and Irish dairy has a significant exposure to Global markets worst affected by COVID-19.
Locally, Aurivo decided to reduce the March milk base price by 1.5 c/l on the back of a slide in commodity prices across Europe, Asia and North America. European dairy markets have settled over the past fortnight, and with most of Asia now out of lockdown, there has been a 20% plus increase in EU exports to China of late. Many European countries are now beginning to ease restrictions which should be of benefit to the whole industry. The April prices have not yet been finalised but there is significant pressure coming from all interested parties that the price be held and not reduced again as proposed by most Co-Ops looking to move to a base price of 29 c/l average.
Beef – While much of the beef sector is covered above, there have been some positive signs over the past week with Supermac’s having re-opened and McDonald’s announcing that it will follow suit before the end of the month. This is in addition to many locally owned outlets opening for collection/deliveries from this week on, increasing demand that we will hopefully be reflected in the price paid by the processors. Additional pressures have been placed on same to source suitable animals to fill orders resulting in more appetite for stock over the past week. Young bulls have seen a lift of 5-10c/kg over the last few days with base quotes for steers and heifers improving to €3.50 to €3.60 respectively. This is a welcome and positive development and hopefully continue the trend in the coming weeks for hard pressed farmers.