Beef crisis meeting planned for October 1st

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The National Beef Association and Farmers for Action have come together under the auspices of the Northern Ireland Farm Groups to host a Beef Crisis meeting in Cookstown on Tuesday 1st October at 8pm.

All farmers and farm groups who are involved in any way with producing beef cattle are very welcome!

A spokesperson for Northern Ireland Farm Groups stated that most farming families in Northern Ireland are well aware of the continuing protests of unfair trading practises of beef processors in Southern Ireland and, in particular, the relentless reduction in prices paid to farmers for their cattle across these islands.

Commenting on behalf of Northern Ireland Farm Groups, the organisation’s William Taylor said: “It is stated that Irish beef processors own 30% plus of the abattoirs across the UK. However, they control 70% plus of the UK beef market.

“This degree of control has reached an unsustainable and dominant peak where farmers’ share of the financial cake is no longer tenantable.

“The large corporate retailers and corporate food wholesalers have a lot to answer for in the mix, in that the financial pressure they exert on the processors is now extreme, which again tumbles down to the farmer.

“On top of this, many of the UK’s corporate food retailers and corporate food wholesalers are increasingly being supplied with Polish and other beef from corporate processors and wholesalers – a position that they cannot vindicate whilst claiming how green they are becoming to their consumers.”

He added: “With Southern Ireland supplies of beef being over self-sufficient, the principle of carrying coal to Newcastle cannot be justified in a climate change emergency by any corporate.

“With many beef farmers on their knees financially and many others seeing no future, the time has come for Northern Ireland to play its part in supporting the efforts of family farmers and the farm organisations in Southern Ireland in their attempts to gain a level playing field for farming families.”

The venue for the Northern Ireland Farm Groups’ meeting is the Glenavon Hotel. The event gets underway at 8.00pm.

Meanwhile, Newry & Armagh DUP Assemblyman William Irwin MLA has said the current slump in beef prices is “very concerning” for farmers.

Mr Irwin was speaking to beef producers in his constituency who he said are worried by the downward price trend and he said meat plants must do more to respond to the strain on the sector at this time.

Mr Irwin added: “Farmers are looking over the border and are concerned by what they see with blockades of processing plants and general uncertainty and upheaval in the sector in the Republic of Ireland. This of course makes farmers uneasy especially as in Northern Ireland prices have also taken a significant hit here.

“Feed prices and other input costs are continuing to rise meaning that when matched against farm gate prices the margins have disappeared and farmers are losing as much as £150 plus per head.”

He continued: “I note that this price squeeze is a factor across the EU and not solely limited to the UK and Republic of Ireland and given the factors attributed to this price drop I would be confident there will be a change in conditions and a recovery in due time.

“However in the short term there is a massive onus on meat plants to treat farmers fairly and pay more for their animals. Having a strangle hold on the industry is bad for everyone and risks the sector in the longer term. Farmers can’t sustain a climate of continual weak prices.”

Mr Irwin concluded: “There are three main areas which I believe must be addressed going forward within the beef industry.

“First off, there must be transparency within the supply chain. Secondly, the catering sector in the UK needs to be more transparent in informing consumers of where their meat comes from.

“Thirdly, government must set an example also through its public procurement, although many would argue that EU legislation stands in the way of doing this effectively.

“Efforts across the UK to increase positive awareness of the quality and security of British beef is important and every effort by the big retailers to stock local produce is of course important in ensuring that our industry is supported by local consumers.”