The main farming unions for livestock farmers from Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, England and Ireland, represented by the UFU, NFUS, NFU Cymru, NFU and IFA has met in Buxton, England to discuss cattle and sheep issues.
UFU beef and lamb chairman Crosby Cleland said: “Beef farmers have come through a long hard winter and spring with very high costs. He said in order to maintain a sustainable supply of high quality beef, retailers and processors must recognise that beef prices need to be above the costs of production, which currently is not the case.”
Commenting on changes to specifications and price grids being imposed on producers by processors across the UK and ROI, Mr Cleland said: “factories cannot act unilaterally in this area and will have to work with farmer representatives. Having met major retailers at Balmoral show, it was clear that prime beef to 36 months is now accepted and we would have to question why processors continue to impose penalties for cattle over 30 months. Tight specification on weight limits is also a growing problem for suckler beef in particular and is eroding any opportunity to make a suitable margin. This also calls into question our existing payment grid and as to whether it truly reflects what is needed to deliver sustainable returns for our positive British and Irish production systems.”
On sheep, UFU hill farming chairman Ian Buchanan said: “Price stability in the market for the next month is crucial as it sets the pattern for the rest of the season, which in turn will be key to incomes for sheep farmers in 2016. He said demand will increase over the next few weeks driven by the retail changeover to spring lamb and also by the Muslin festival of Ramadan which commences on 7th June.”
The UK and Irish farm representatives were strongly supportive of work of the EU Sheep Reflection Group, which was set up by EU Agricultural Commissioner Phil Hogan. Mr Buchanan said: “It is essential that the EU Sheep Reflection Group brings forward a set of strong and practical recommendations for the sheep sector focusing on the key issues of incomes, supports, consumption, promotions, trade and technology. In addition, the really positive public goods and value delivered by the sheep sector to the wider society must be fully recognised.”
On the EU trade negotiations for TTIP and Mercosur, both Mr Buchanan and Mr Cleland welcomed the decision to remove the beef TRQ’s from the offer transmitted to the Mercosur countries by the EU and recognised the positive work of EU Agricultural Commissioner Phil Hogan in defending the beef sector.
They said the EU cannot allow beef imports into the European market which fail to meet EU standards across the key areas of traceability, food safety and animal health controls, animal welfare and environmental standards including carbon footprinting. In addition, they said the EU must not proceed with any further negotiations until they complete and publish a full impact assessment of all the trade deals in the beef sector.