Lamb price gap costs farmers £1m plus

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Ulster Farmers’ Union beef and lamb chairman, Crosby Cleland, has said the differential between lamb prices here and in Great Britain needs to be focussed on by processors and the DARD minister, Michelle O’Neill.

At this stage in the lamb season most farmers are well aware that the weak euro is one of the main causes of problems in the sheep trade across the UK this year.

“But what is yet to be explained by any of the local processors is the difference in the prices farmers receive for lambs in Northern Ireland and GB,” said Mr Cleland.

Since the beginning of May the price gap has on average been around 40p/kg which on a 21kg lamb equates to £8.40 per head. With over 120,000 lambs slaughtered in Northern Ireland since the beginning of May this has left sheep farmers over £1million pounds worse off than their counterparts in the rest of the United Kingdom.

Mr Cleland said that since farmers here serve the same markets as their GB counterparts, and the lamb is produced to the same standard, this begs the question as to why farmers here are being forced to take less.

“While this is only a snap shot of two months trade this year it’s about time our DARD Minister started asking serious questions of red meat processors in Northern Ireland as to why this has been happening at times of such difficulty for local producers,” said Mr Cleland.

The local beef price has also come under pressure again in the last few weeks and this is despite prices in Great Britain holding up reasonably well.

“This has undoubtedly made live exports to GB more attractive for farmers with exports increasing by 80 per cent from June to July”, said Mr Cleland, adding, “If local processors aren’t going to step up to the mark and keep prices in line with the rest of the UK, farmers must use other options available to them, such as the livestock markets or the live export trade to get a better price,” he said.