Concerns grow for Irish beef producers, as price differentials increase

Fears are growing for Northern Irish beef farmers due to the increasing price difference with Great Britain, according to the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU). 

The union said that prime cattle prices in Great Britain had increased week on week, while prices in Northern Ireland remained stagnated.

This increasing price difference between Northern Ireland and Great Britain was a growing concern for local beef producers, claimed UFU deputy president Victor Chestnutt.

“Over the past month prime cattle prices across Great Britain have strengthened on a weekly basis and are currently averaging 346p/kg for R3 cattle,” said Chestnutt.

“Local processors have been trying up to now to stall any increases in the base price. This has resulted in the growth of the price differential from 3p/kg to 13p/kg over the last month, which on a 380kg animal is almost £50. For local farmers this is a concerning trend, with many still trying to recoup heavy losses from finishing cattle earlier in the year.”

While local processing representatives have experienced an improvement in trading conditions, which can in part be attributed to the euro/sterling exchange rate, Chestnutt said processors had not been rewarding farmers. “Once again this demonstrates that processors are working off a policy of short-term gain for them and forgetting about the long-term impact this has on the farmers who supply the raw materials.”

To overcome obstacles, the UFU called on the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) to tackle price differentials. “With a new minister in place, we expect changes in the direction DAERA policy will take, particularly in terms of trying to increase live exports from Northern Ireland,” said the deputy president.

“DAERA needs to focus on the trade barriers that already exist for local farmers seeking to trade cattle with Great Britain. Reducing red tape and promoting the live export of cattle from Northern Ireland will be essential going forward in helping to sustain local beef production.”

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