THE Ulster Farmers’ Union is to hold a series of meetings with agri-food and retail bodies, with Union leaders outlining three key proposals on behalf of the farming community in response to the horsemeat scandal.
The Union is to host talks tomorrow (Friday, February 15) at its Belfast Headquarters with the Livestock and Meat Commission, Consumer Council, NI Independent Retailers Association, British Retail Consortium and the NI Food and Drink Association.
The UFU says the horsemeat scandal has laid bare the risks associated with an ever more complicated food supply chain which is under relentless price pressure. The Union says it will be pressing forward with three key proposals to ensure farm businesses in Northern Ireland are not damaged by recent events.
The UFU will propose that:
* Retailers and Food Service sector must fully commit to the NI Farm Quality Assurance Scheme for beef so that consumers can be categorically assured on the provenance and quality of their food;
* NI Farm Quality Assurance Scheme beef should now become a compulsory requirement in the public procurement process for local schools, hospitals and prisons.
* Farmers should not be asked to pay for any additional costs which emerge as a result of the scandal, such as the cost of additional DNA testing in the food chain.
UFU President Harry Sinclair said: “While the mood among farmers is still one of anger that the red meat sector has been dragged into this horsemeat scandal, there is also the need to press ahead and make a better food chain. The benefits of a short supply chain and farm quality assured produce have been clearly demonstrated in this scandal and decisions should now be made by processors, retailers and Government to make a much greater commitment to our local farm quality assured produce. Farmers also have a genuine concern that extra procedures introduced to the food chain such as DNA testing will come at a cost and as has happened so often in the past, retailers and processors will simply protect their margins and pass the cost back to farmers. We are determined that this will not be allowed to happen. Clear lessons can be learned from this episode which can deliver a much better food supply chain for consumers.”