Following comments made by Republic of Ireland (ROI) Minister Simon Coveney in relation to an all island label for sheep meat, the Ulster Farmers’ Union has said that the Governments on both sides of the border must do more to provide clarity on voluntary labelling for sheep meat and ensure that there are no unnecessary obstacles impacting on cross border trade.
UFU President Ian Marshall said: “While Minister Coveney has said that his Government is not prepared to accept an all island label for sheep meat, more could still be done by both Governments to clarify the guidance around the voluntary labelling for sheep meat produced in Northern Ireland and slaughtered in ROI.
“Throughout April we saw how confusion around the new Country of Origin labelling legislation was used by processors to distort the market and put downward pressure on prices paid to producers. We simply cannot afford to see a repeat of this happening again and it is imperative that Governments make it clear to processors and retailers that a voluntary label can be used that will provide consumers with the clarity they need around animal traceability and food safety.
“With 45% of Northern Ireland lambs being traded to ROI, this is a vital market for local producers but which also has benefits for the ROI economy as well. The 400,000 lambs traded to ROI last year enabled ROI processors to maintain market share, improve the efficiency of their plants and create jobs for the local economy. Further to this, we would appeal to farmers in ROI to be open minded about the importance of this trade. While fewer exports into ROI might provide a short term benefit for them, in the long run this could lead to difficulties for farmers across the island, so in our view it is in the best interests of everyone that all questions around Country of Origin labelling are clarified beyond all doubt and the market is allowed to move on.”