Prime beef prices quite often slip following the Christmas rush, however this year looks to have taken a steeper incline than producers expected.

With Brexit and Covid-19 still rumbling around, it seems that it has been difficult for processors to plan their next few weeks of production, plus instances of self-isolating workers have significantly slowed down killing lines. So, even if there was strong retail demand, the processing capacity might not have been robust enough to cope, said trade insiders.

According to AHDB, deadweight prices for steers and heifers hitting the R4L spec’ in Scotland were 380p and 382.3p per dwkg, respectively. This represented a fairly dramatic decrease of 9p for steers and 6.9p for heifers on the week.

Although beef prices have been on the rise at least for the second half of this year, they are starting to take a dramatic dive now with all of the uncertainties around. However, they are still sitting significantly up on last year – steers are better off by 32p and heifers by 35p per kg.

Estimated slaughter was up marginally for the week ending December 5, totalling 34,400 head, which was an increase of 150 head on the week before and 1600 head up on the same week last year.

With intense negotiations between the EU and the UK currently taking place, a high level of uncertainty remains when forecasting what will happen next.

According to AHDB, some industry pundits have speculated that some UK supermarkets may favour Irish beef in the short-term which will have also affected Scottish beef prices.

George Purves, managing director of United Auctions, Stirling, explained the importance and the uncertainties that lies within the next few weeks. “The marketplace is uncertain with Brexit negotiations, no one knows the outcome and our livelihood depends on it,” he said.

“A lot will also depend on the beef that is coming in from Southern Ireland as they are currently flooding the market, which will have produced a hit on our beef price.

“Abattoirs are still killing plenty of cattle and the consumption of beef is still there on the run up to the festive period, but the price has just taken a dive due to a Christmas rush and extra Irish supplies are not helping.

“There is a lot to overcome, we just need to push things over the line now on Brexit. Fingers crossed, there will be a deal and all countries can depend on each other like we have done for centuries,” added Mr Purves.

Remaining positive about the beef price was Primrose Beaton, head of cattle sales at Lawrie and Symington’s Lanark centre. She said: “Although the kill for Christmas is largely over, processors are still killing large volumes of cattle, so there is clearly supply and demand there for beef.

“Despite a steep decline in beef prices this week, they are still well up on the year – it has just been an exceptional trade this year,” she said, adding that it is now all dependent on the end of the year and how Brexit pans out.

“We just have to hope that trade stabilises in the New Year. For now, though, there is no point in panicking – we just have to be cautious and remain positive,” she concluded.