Ulster Farmers’ Union deputy president, Ivor Ferguson, has said that DARD must prioritise Northern Ireland’s application for ‘BSE negligible risk status’ to help improve the finances of the local beef industry.
The UFU has highlighted that the beef sector is experiencing sustained downward pressure on prices, which is hitting producer incomes and confidence.
“The current returns from the market are simply not sustainable. With the CAP transitional payment system likely to be most severe on beef producers we must be proactive. We need to look at ways we can harness more value for the industry, return more money to farmers and reduce rendering costs,” said Mr Ferguson.
The UFU says it believes a big opportunity open to the industry is for DARD to make an application to the World Health Organisation in 2016 for official ‘BSE negligible risk’ status. “There is only one chance to do this each year. That is why a concerted effort must be made by DARD to make this happen,” said Ivor Ferguson. “The industry is fully behind this and is ready to provide support where it can - but ultimately we are reliant on DARD to make this happen,” he said.
“Our industry has worked hard to get into a position where we can supply a product that meets world-leading standards. However we are being held back by the stigma associated with BSE as we try to access new markets,” said Mr Ferguson. He added that Northern Ireland has the right credentials to apply for BSE ‘negligible risk’ status. “The challenge for DARD now is whether they are prepared to take immediate action and back the industry over one of the biggest opportunities available to it for a long time,” he said.