ULSTER Farmers’ Union representatives have met with other UK farming unions in London to discuss the on-going challenges facing the sheep industry.
The sheep summit was held following a challenging year for producers which has seen farms hit by poor weather, a longer finishing period, rising costs, disease challenges and a marked drop in lamb prices over the past year. The summit also heard from French, Spanish and Irish farming unions who outlined many of the same concerns via a conference call. The UFU was represented at the sheep meeting by Policy Director Wesley Aston and Policy Officer Gill Gallagher.
A joint statement issued after the summit on behalf of the UFU, NFU Scotland and NFU England and Wales said: “Confidence in the sheep sector is at rock bottom. Factors such as the weather, rising costs and disease are contributing to make the ‘perfect storm’ and farmers are being left to produce lamb at less than the cost of production.
“All four UK unions have committed to pull together to address the challenge farmers in countries across the EU are facing from cheap New Zealand imports and pressure on farm margins.
“We believe there is scope to review Specified Risk Material (SRM) controls, which devalue older lambs and we would also urge the UK processing sector to take more of a lead to improve transparency for producers in the deadweight lamb market.
“Despite the troubling times, we believe there are grounds for optimism in the long term. We know our lamb is in demand both at home and abroad but the industry must regain its confidence to invest in the future if we are to exploit these opportunities.”