Ulster Farmers’ Union beef and lamb policy chairman, Crosby Cleland, has said prices being paid for beef need to strengthen as farmers finishing cattle continue to suffer heavy losses.
The UFU says his time last year beef producers were receiving in the region of 360p/kg, which is as low as prices can be if livestock coming off a farm here are to break even. “Unfortunately at the end of 2015 producers saw no improvement in the market in the run-up to Christmas, which has always been a feature of the beef trade. As a result prices well below the cost of production have left many finishers with losses that top £200/head,” said Mr Cleland.
He said beef producers have had to live with sustained downward price pressure on prices. “This is having a negative impact on the income of many local farms at a time of year when costs are high,” said Mr Cleland.
He added that many farmers will also be adjusting to reduced payments within the new CAP system. “Processors seek to blame weak demand for these poor prices. But the reality is those same businesses continue to pay upwards of 35p/kg more for cattle in Great Britain than here. There is no justifiable reason for this, especially when you consider that the difference was only 5p/kg this time last year,” he said.
One positive is that recent weeks have brought a trend towards processors having to pay prices well ahead of official quotes. “This is happening because farmers are refusing to sell at the prices on offer. That stance has been strengthened by the number of cattle that processors were expecting to come off farms failing to materialise,” said Mr Cleland, who admitted it was difficult to forecast whether this trend would continue in the coming weeks. “What is clear is that all producers should be negotiating hard for better prices, and they need to resist pressure to accept the quotes currently on offer,” he said.