IN a frank assessment of the local red meat sector, the Ulster Farmers’ Union has told processors that the current beef supply chain is unsustainable and has no future.
UFU Deputy President Barclay Bell, who led a Union delegation this week to meet red meat processors, said; “Status quo in the beef industry is simply not an option.
The future of beef production on local farms will be economically unsustainable if meat processors continue to ignore farmers rising costs whilst paying prices significantly below those on offer for similar cattle in GB.
In a meeting this week between the UFU and the Northern Ireland Meat Exporters Association (NIMEA) the UFU challenged meat processors to justify the lower prices being paid to Northern Ireland farmers.”
The Union says local farm gate beef prices are currently lagging 20-40p/Kg behind GB, while NI lamb prices are over 70p/Kg behind GB.
UFU Beef and Lamb Chairman Ray Elkin said: “The price difference between Northern Ireland and Great Britain for beef and lamb is totally unjustifiable.
We have asked the Livestock and Meat Commission to independently undertake research into the causes of the differential and we look forward to that work being completed as soon as possible.
Cattle and sheep across the UK are produced to the same high standards and are sold in the same retail outlets. Therefore there is absolutely no reason why Northern Ireland beef and lamb should be discounted.”
The UFU highlighted to NIMEA the need for an increase in farm gate prices to cover the anticipated rise in feed costs in the months ahead.
Ray Elkin continued: “It is projected that the cost of beef production will increase this winter by 40p/kilo due to rising feed costs and this simply must not be ignored by supermarkets and processors. Nothing less than a significant increase in farm gate prices is necessary to sustain beef farms going forward.”
The UFU has also requested talks with supermarket leaders and the British Retail Consortium to discuss the crisis facing producers and the Union has called on NIMEA to support this. In the meantime the UFU has urged beef producers to consider all available options before selling their cattle.
Ray Elkin offered the following advice to farmers: “I would urge beef producers to bargain for the best possible price; improve their negotiating position by working together to present larger consignments of in-spec cattle to factories; and consider organising consignments through an export assembly centre to GB where up to a 40p/Kilo premium may be available.”
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