A clear indication of firm demand for beef in the UK has emerged despite the horsemeat scandal, according to latest market information analysis by Quality Meat Scotland (QMS).

Over the past couple of weeks deadweight prices for cattle in Scotland and the UK have moved up to stand around 7% higher than this time last year, according to QMS economist Stuart Ashworth.

Setting the scene, Mr Ashworth said Scottish slaughter statistics for January had shown a 0.5% increase in the prime kill and an increase of 2.5% reported in Northern Ireland.

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In contrast, volumes slaughtered in England and Wales were 6% lower than last year. However, carcase weights have fallen by around 2%, so across the UK as a whole, beef supplies remained 3% lower than last year during January.

"Since then the Scottish price-reporting abattoir have reported an increase of 4% in the kill compared to last year, with English and Welsh price-reporting abattoirs showing a 2.5% increase," said Mr Ashworth.

"Therefore, during February the volume of beef produced is likely to have increased. With prices remaining firm, this increased supply points to an underlying strength in the marketplace," he added.

Meanwhile, George Lyon MEP has warned the cuts in farm support will bite in 2014 as the new EU budget comes into force.

"The EU budget deal cuts Direct Payments by €58.8 billion (£50.7bn) in real terms over the next seven years beginning in 2014 compared to the current budget," said Mr Lyon.

"Rural Development spending has been cut by €13.2bn and there will be further top-slicing of over €5.6bn. There will be significant reductions in Rural Development funding in the new programme for 2014 and beyond."

Market round-up

United Auctions sold 5872 prime hoggs at Stirling on Thursday to a top of £98 per head and 241p per kg to average 162.5p (-3.2p on the week).

The Cumberland and Dumfriesshire Farmers Mart sold 8865 prime hoggs in Longtown on Thursday to a top of £100 and 270p and an average of 172.2p (+6.6p).

There were also 6975 cast sheep with heavy ewes selling to £133 for Texels and averaging £63.95 (+55p), while light ewes peaked at £55.50 for Blackfaces and levelled at £29.65 (-£6.67).

Rams sold to £101 for a Texel and averaged £57.01 (-£4.89).

Messrs Craig Wilson Ltd sold 176 store heifers at Ayr on Thursday to a top of £1250 per head and 240.4p per kg to average £819.55 and 209.7p, while 285 store, beef-bred bullocks peaked at £1370 and 258.4p to level at £922.66 and 217.5p. Forty-eight store, B&W bullocks averaged £748.38, or 161.5p.