After a “frank” assessment of the red meat sector, the UFU told meat processors the industry needed to look at other options to get higher prices. UFU deputy president Barclay Bell 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 while paying prices significantly below those on offer for similar cattle in Great Britain (GB).”
In a meeting last week between the UFU and the Northern Ireland (NI) Meat Exporters Association (NIMEA), the UFU challenged processors to justify the lower prices paid to NI farmers. The union also said that local farm gate beef prices were lagging at 20p/kg to 40p/kg behind GB prices and NI prices were even lower at 70p/kg behind GB prices.
UFU beef and lamb chairman Ray Elkin disagreed with the “unjustifiable” price difference between NI and GB and said: “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. So there is absolutely no reason why Northern Ireland beef and lamb should be discounted.”
The UFU also highlighted the need for an increase in farm gate prices to cover the anticipated rise in feed costs in future months and called on the Northern Ireland Meat Exporters Association (NIMEA) for support.
Talks with the British Retail Consortium (BRC) as well as supermarket leaders have been requested, where the UFU wishes discuss the “crisis” facing red meat producers. But until progress has been made, the UFU has urged beef producers to consider their options before selling cattle. Elkin advised: “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/kg premium may be available.”