The prices Scottish producers are receiving for prime cattle remain 6-7% higher than this time last year. This improvement is significantly ahead of the situation in England and Wales , where the year-on-year improvement is about 2- 3%. However, Scottish and UK prime cattle prices continue to drift lower, continuing a trend which, aside from a small seasonal improvement in December, started in October last year. "Contributing to this slide in price has been a modest improvement in the UK and Irish cattle supply since Christmas," observed Stuart Ashworth , QMS head of economic services. "Although Scottish price reporting abattoirs have handled a similar number of cattle over the past fortnight to the same period last year, English and Welsh abattoirs have handled 4% more cattle," he added. With carcase weights currently higher than last year, prime beef supplies have increased further. However, total beef availability remains lower than last year due to a reduction of more than 10% in the number of cows and mature bulls reaching UK abattoirs. Irish abattoirs have also seen cattle availability in mid- January increase, by more than 10% on last year. "Although the Irish trade has been flat for the past month or so, Irish steers and heifers are trading at 2-3% lower than last year, while young bull prices are 6% lower," reports Mr Ashworth . "Scottish, and indeed GB, cattle continue to trade at a significant premium to the Irish market. The differential has been particularly wide since mid-2013 and currently stands at about 18- 20%. "Historically the premium has stood at about 10-13%." Meanwhile, across Europe as a whole, prime cattle prices are currently 3-4% lower than last year, while production has remained little changed - a scenario that implies demand pressure driving the market. "However, a closer look also identifies a reduction in EU exports, particularly from Poland , where producer prices are currently some 10% lower than a year ago, and where a change to slaughter rules mid-year badly affected their exports outside Europe . This change in export activity has left more product on the EU market at the same time as retail demand remains fickle," added Mr Ashworth . UK cull cows face the greatest price pressure which, despite lower availability, are trading at prices 10% lower than last year. Market round-up The Cumberland and Dumfriesshire Farmers Mart have sold 5398 prime hoggs in Longtown on Thursday, to a top of pound(s)114 per head and 277p per kg to average 193.1p (+8.2p on the week). There were also 3982 cast sheep forward when heavy ewes sold to pound(s)128 for Texels and averaged pound(s)62.81 (+pound(s)3.70), while light ewes have peaked at pound(s)60 for Cheviots and levelled at pound(s)41.92 (+pound(s)2.15). Rams sold to pound(s)102 for a Texel and averaged pound(s)51.92 (-pound(s)10.18).
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