IF there was ever a time for DARD, LMC UFU and the FSA in Northern Ireland to publically confirm the strength of our redmeat traceability system – it’s now.
Irrespective of the details relating to the current debacle concerning ‘horsemeat in beef burgers’, the overriding objective must be to ensure that the image of our beef production systems here in Northern Ireland is in no way tarnished. The reality is that farmers have to endure more official inspections and traceability checks than any other sector of industry. So it’s time that all of this bureaucracy and red tape actually started to count for something tangible and worthwhile.
Moreover, at a time when beef farmers had been hoping for a much needed lift in returns, it is paramount that nothing is done to devalue the commercial value of locally produced beef over the coming weeks and months.
Meal prices are set to go up by another £6 per tonne this week. That’s yet more pressure on producer margins. Meanwhile, fuel and other energy costs remain at record levels. Add in the fact that Single Farm Payments in 2012 were reduced significantly in Sterling terms, due to £/€ currency changes, and one quickly gets a picture of the very real financial pressures on many local farm businesses. The recent UFU President’s Area Meetings highlighted the very real cash flow problems that are impacting on agriculture at the present time. Given this background, the last thing farmers need is negative publicity for the food industry, which was not of their making. Producers must be insulated completely from any of the ‘dirt’ that may be bandied around in the wake of the equine DNA fiasco.
So please allow me to repeat myself! If there was ever a time for DARD, LMC, UFU and the FSA in Northern Ireland to publically confirm the strength of our redmeat traceability system – it’s now.