NFU criticises Dunbia’s change in cattle specification

The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) has disapproved Dunbia’s “unacceptable” changes to its terms and conditions for cattle specification on such short notice. 

Producers who supply to Dunbia have been given only two weeks’ notice of the new specifications, as the change will come into effect from Monday 16 November.

Reacting to Dunbia’s announcement, NFU president Meurig Raymond urged the beef manufacturer to sign up to the processor code of practice.

“Eight months after the code was launched and supported by Farming Minister George Eustice, Dunbia, which is not a signatory, has shown exactly why the code, which sets out a minimum notice period for changes in terms and conditions for cattle, is absolutely necessary,” said Raymond.

“Dunbia is a processor that publicly claimed a voluntary code was not in their best interests as their relationships with suppliers was fair and transparent. Yet they are giving their producers virtually no notice for significant changes in the specifications of cattle – there is simply no opportunity for cattle already in the production system to adjust to the new spec.”

Raymond added that beef production was a long-term procedure with a two- to three-year cycle, on top of feeding decisions being made well in advance. Dunbia’s modification to requirements at short notice mean producers have little time to adapt.

“Changes in the specifications, including a dramatic decrease in carcase weight, and the introduction of a ‘four residencies’ rule, will mean that animals already on farm are being produced to a spec that will be penalised within days – farmers are likely to receive hefty penalties for producing animals in good faith to a spec that no longer exists.”

The NFU urged Dunbia to make sure that its producers were aware its ‘four residencies’ rule was in accordance with those of other processors, as well as assuring that such changes at short notice would not happen again.

Raymond concluded: “We also want Dunbia to reassure their producers by signing up to the beef processor code, which has a minimum 12 weeks’ notice for spec changes.

“We also challenge all processors that have the ‘four residencies’ rule to explain the rationale behind this requirement, as many producers do not see why it is necessary or justified.”

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