The Ulster Farmers Union (UFU) has hosted a beef crisis meeting in Belfast, which was also attended by representatives of NFU England and Wales, NFU Scotland, NFU Cymru and the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA).
Following the event, UFU beef and lamb policy committee chairman, Sam Chesney said farmers across the UK and Ireland are feeling the pressure of the beef market situation.
He added: “It is unsustainable and action needs to be taken as the future of this crucial industry is at immediate risk. Some farmers have lost over £100,000 within their farm business on income alone; this is not taking into account any rising input costs.
“The UFU understands all the pressure farmers are under and we are actively considering the options to address this immediate situation and a positive support mechanism in the near future which is critical.”
Previously, the UFU had highlighted the fact that beef farmers in Northern Ireland have lost over £27.5 million as a result of a “perfect storm” of issues affecting prices.
Discussions in Belfast covered a range of issues, including Brexit; mitigation measures around the EU’s single payment scheme and ability to trade.
The meeting also covered the UK government’s tariff policy; future support of suckler cows and breeding ewes; public procurement; food service and the impact of the €100 million cash boost provided to Irish beef farmers.
Prior to the Belfast meeting, the UK farming unions had drawn up a five-point plan to ease the current beef price crisis. Their demands include the formulation of an intense and co-ordinated period of product promotion and innovation by retailers and processors to help stimulate demand for safe, high quality, fully traceable Red Tractor beef
Levy bodies will be expected to continue raising awareness around the values behind UK beef production, both at home and abroad while also supporting the export, retail and food service sectors to deliver on new opportunities, such as the recently opened Chinese market.
In addition, governments across the UK have been asked to urgently review their public procurement commitments with an emphasis on UK sourcing while also assessing the impact on the UK beef market of the €100 million cash boost provided to Irish beef farmers, while considering mitigating measures to protect UK beef production.
Commenting on the outcome of the Belfast meeting, IFA’s National Livestock Chairman Angus Woods said: “Farm organisations from Britain and Ireland are extremely concerned about the severe consequences of a no-deal Brexit and the possibility of a flood of sub-standard South American imports damaging the beef sector.”
He added that the uncertainty caused by Brexit has destabilised and damaged the beef market from the consumer right back down the supply chain to the producer.
Woods continued: “It is very clear from our discussions that beef farmers all across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are under severe income pressure as a result of unviable low beef prices.
“Our farming colleagues across the UK are clear that beef prices have to rise. Farmers cannot stay producing beef at below the cost of production. Retailers and processors must respond and return a higher price back to the farmer.”
Ahead of an important European meeting of livestock farmers with the EU Commission in Brussels next week, Angus Woods commented: “We discussed the need to turn up the pressure on the Commission over the ever-increasing volumes of sub-standard South American imports damaging the EU market and prices. The facts are these imports fail to meet EU standards and must be banned.”