Island beef sees highest prices in 8 years

The chair of the P.E.I. Cattle Producers Association says the mood with cattle producers is "cautious optimism".

Island beef producers are experiencing some of the highest prices in eight years.

Members of the P.E.I. Cattle Producers Association held their annual meeting Wednesday night.

"The mood with cattle producers is cautious optimism and a sense of hope in the air. The prices have been going up. We are to $1.83 [a pound] at the plant in Borden this week I believe, and the price in Ontario is a little bit above that," said Peter Verleun, chair of the association.

"Oh gosh, we were down to $1 for the longest time. $1.30 was quite common. We're back to the level, or almost to the level we were at in 2003."

But Verleun said all the lean years have taken a toll and it means it will take just as long to recover financially.

He said many farmers are wondering how they'll be able to pay back federal loans that will be due soon. He said farmers are looking for a further extension.

Meanwhile, the improved prices are having an impact on the Atlantic Beef Products plant in Albany.

"The price has been steadily increasing … for the last three or four months and for farmers that's a good thing. But as those prices increase, it tightens our margins and makes things more difficult at the plant," said plant president Mike Nabuurs.

Nabuurs said the margins at the small plant are not where he'd like them to be.

A promotion is going on throughout April to encourage beef lovers to buy local. Fourteen restaurants are participating in the P.E.I. Burger Love promotion, creating special burgers from Island beef and inviting diners to vote for their favourite.