Independent investigation of the gap between average beef cattle prices in Ireland and the British mainland is on the way — but it will look only at Irish prices north of the border.
Before the end of the year, the Livestock and Meat Commission (LMC) in Northern Ireland intends to have answers to why R4L steers are worth 30p to 48p less (37c to 59c), or £108 to £172 per head less, in the North, compared to across the Irish Sea.
The findings will be of great interest to cattle farmers south of the border — even though there are key differences in the beef trades north and south, according to a Bord Bia spokesperson who said: "Market information from Northern Ireland is interesting and relevant, although not directly correlated to trade in the Republic of Ireland.
"The main differences include fewer exports into continental EU markets, the LMC quality assurance which permits Northern Ireland beef to carry the ‘Red Tractor’ logo, slightly lower transport and processing costs, and being on the opposite side of the euro/sterling currency fluctuations." In contrast, southern exports go about 50/50 to the UK and continental EU countries, and are boosted by the current low 80p per euro exchange rate.
This week, Bord Bia sources confirmed beef farmers in Britain are receiving up to 18% more per kg for finished animals than their southern Irish counterparts. They get 11% more than Northern Ireland farmers.
Bord Bia is unaware of any investigations being commissioned on the price differential between Republic of Ireland and UK cattle prices, and said the higher prices in Britain are partly explained by the preference among UK retailers to source most of their product domestically.
Northern cattle farmers say they are aghast at the high price differential between their cattle which are similarly bred, similarly fed, and sold to the same markets as cattle on the British mainland.
They may discover in the report which will be delivered to the LMC that cheaper cattle from south of the border partly explain the price differential.
According to the National Beef Association’s Northern Ireland chairman, Oisin Murnion, Northern Ireland beef processors imported 14.6% of their September intakes direct from the south, where cattle are over €60 cheaper. He has also criticised Northern processors for saying they cannot lift prices — despite consumers on the British mainland spending £87m extra on buying beef in the year to August 5.
It’s all absolutely barmy. The people are being asked to shoulder the burden but the main part of the burden is on the weakest. Morale, motivation, and hope for any light at the end of the tunnel are vanishing. Does Government honestly think this situation is sustainable?
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