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Tue 7 September 2021
Is it a contradiction to say that confidence reigns throughout the livestock sector, albeit with cautious optimism? How many times over a career spanning 48 years have I seen a “light at the end of the tunnel” only to see that light fade and disappear!
As the eternal optimists we are, THIS TIME the general feeling is that “the light becomes stronger and the tunnel shorter”.
The dreaded “C” word (Covid) has without question, cast an indelible spell across the world and our small island has obviously not escaped. It would be crass, flippant and in extremely poor taste to say that “it’s an ill wind etc”, but the pandemic affecting each, and every one of us has perhaps in a small way brought the masses a step back towards reality and top of the list, food!
As a profession and in broader terms an industry when lockdown was imposed and pubs, hotels, restaurants, food bars and food outlets in general closed, we all braced ourselves for a backlash, coupled at that time with a deal looking unlikely for Brexit, we felt all tunnels (fictious and under the channel) could be blocked. Thankfully, how wrong we were.
The British public seemed to embrace the obvious and began cooking for themselves (aided by a plethora of TV programmes showing them how). Retail outlets of all types recorded unparalleled sales – yippee just like the old days! and amazingly that trend seems to have continued, not at the frenzied activity of last year, but certainly much improved on what we have experienced in recent years.
Staycation, the new in word for people unable or unwilling to travel abroad for their holiday must have made a significant difference to retail outlets in this country. Figures being banded around of 4 – 6 million people not leaving the country, for vacations still have to eat! They may not all be eating beef, lamb, pork on a daily basis but their presence will certainly be making a difference to the demand that is usually experienced.
Back to the “coal face” – weekly prime and store stock sales. These have been unrivalled for demand, competition and ultimately an increase in price. “It is where it should be” and “about time” are comments heard (and endorsed) on a daily basis, but it really comes back to supply and demand. The supply issue is available to a degree and the old adage of “the price will find them” remains true for the time being. As far as the future is concerned the crystal ball looks decidedly cloudy.
Changes to BPS and the introduction of ELMS/SFI and so on could/will have a far reaching effect on cattle and sheep numbers. Already this season most Auctioneers are reporting reduced numbers of breeding sheep which will have a knock on effect for prime lambs next year onwards.
A similar story in the cattle sector, only now most supermarkets are looking for farmers to “contract rear” cattle ensuring a continuous supply for the future – they have seen the “writing on the wall” and prudently acted accordingly, like it or not that is good business.
The demand part of the equation will, I am sure, continue to be buoyant. Cattle prices should remain solid and sheep have never looked better.
Young Auctioneers taking to the rostrum have never had it so good with buyers keen, confident and eager to buy. As a “Senior” am I, bitter……certainly not! Envious…. definitely yes!
Let’s all hope the light gets even stronger and the tunnel opens up!
Clive C. Roads
Former Chairman & Partner with McCartneys
Now Consultant to the firm
Recipient of FG Lifetime Achievement Award, 2019.