The NFU has claimed that significant changes by beef processor Dunbia to its terms and conditions for cattle specification at such short notice are totally unacceptable.
Dunbia, which processes more than 300,000 animals a year, has given their producers just two weeks’ notice with changes set to come into force on 16 November.
NFU President Meurig Raymond said the announcement by Dunbia emphasised the need for them to sign up to the processor code of practice.
“Eight months after the code was launched and supported by Farming Minister George Eustice, Dunbia, who are not signatories, have shown exactly why the code, which sets out a minimum notice period for changes in terms and conditions for cattle, is absolutely necessary.
“Dunbia is a processor that publically claimed that a voluntary code was not in their best interest as their relationship with suppliers was fair and transparent. Yet they are giving their producers virtually no notice for significant changes in the specifications of cattle – there is simply no opportunity for cattle already in the production system to adjust to the new spec. Beef production is a long term enterprise and has a two to three year cycle and purchasing and feeding decisions are made well in advance.
“Changes in the specifications, including a dramatic decrease in carcase weight, and the introduction of a “four residencies” rule, will mean that animals already on farm are being produced to a spec that will be penalised within days – farmers will likely receive hefty penalties for producing animals in good faith to a spec that no longer exists.
“The NFU today calls on Dunbia to assure producers that its “four residencies” rule is in line with those of other processors – which allows within business movements and is based on legal ownership rather than statutory moves - and to demonstrate that this sort of short notice change will not occur in the future. We also want Dunbia to reassure their producers by signing up to the beef processor code, which has a minimum 12 weeks’ notice for spec changes.
“We also challenge all processors that have the “four residencies” rule to explain the rationale behind this requirement as many producers do not see why it is necessary or justified.”