Farmgate prices damaging confidence of livestock sector, industry bodies warn

Downward pressure on farmgate returns is affecting livestock producers’ confidence, according to the National Farmers’ Union (NFU). 

The main farming unions from England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland met recently to discuss the key issues affecting the cattle and sheep sectors. Alongside the NFU, the NFUS (National Farmers’ Union Scotland), NFU Cymru, the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) and the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) were in attendance to discuss industry challenges.

“In order to maintain a sustainable supply of high-quality beef, retailers and processors must recognise that beef prices need to be above the costs of production, which currently is not the case,” said Charles Sercombe, NFU livestock board chairman.

Meanwhile, NFUS livestock committee chairman Charlie Adam, said that processors must work with farmer representatives on changes to specifications and price grids being enforced by producers.

“Weight and other penalties are totally unfair and will impose severe penalties on farmers,” said Adam. “We said specifications must take account of the positive British and Irish production systems and price grids must be cost-neutral to the sector.”

In the sheep sector, price stability in the market for the next month was recognised as being crucial as it sets the mood for the rest of the season. This will play an important role in the incomes for sheep farmers. “Demand will increase over the next few weeks, driven by the retail changeover to spring lamb, a favourable exchange rate and also by domestic demand boosted by the Muslim festival of Ramadan, which commences on 7 June,” commented Wyn Evans, NFU Cymru livestock board chairman.

The representative bodies from the UK and Ireland all announced their support for the EU Sheep Reflection Group, which was set up by EU agricultural commissioner Phil Hogan.

“It is essential that the EU Sheep Reflection Group brings forward a set of strong and practical recommendations for the sheep sector, focusing on the key issues of incomes and profitability, initiatives and promotion to support consumption, measures to grow trade and develop technology,” said UFU sheep committee chairman Crosby Cleland.

“In addition, sheep farming offers many public goods and the value delivered by the sheep sector to the wider society and environment must be fully recognised,” he added.

Furthermore, the decision to remove beef from the Mercosur deal was welcomed by Angus Woods, IFA beef committee chairman. He said: “The EU cannot allow beef imports into the European market, which fail to meet EU standards across the key areas of traceability, food safety and animal health controls, animal welfare and environmental standards, including carbon footprinting.

“In addition, he [EU agricultural commissioner Phil Hogan] said the EU must not proceed with any further negotiations until they complete and publish a full impact assessment of all the trade deals in the beef sector.”

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