Northern Ireland Farm Groups have met with Lady Sylvia Hermon MP to discuss the Brexit shortfall at the farm gate for Northern Ireland beef farmers and the support urgently needed.
NI Farm Groups members, National Beef Association, Northern Ireland Agricultural Producers Association and Farmers For Action representatives at the meeting were all given time to discuss the beef crisis.
NI Farm Groups have assessed that before the Brexit Referendum in January 2014 the price of a U3 beef animal (U3 price taken to reflect the fall in price down the grades of prime beef) was close to £4 per kilo at the abattoirs in NI, with similar prices across these islands with perhaps Scotland and the north of England 10p per kilo higher as has been for some time. By 2018 this price had dropped to £3.60 per kilo approx. From January 2018 a further slide began to accelerate until today where we are £3.20 per kilo approx.
The UFU claim that the last six months of 2019 has taken over £27 million off the price paid to beef farmers by NI corporate abattoirs. NI Farm Groups explained that this downward trend all began after the horsemeat scandal and farm gate price bounce back thereafter, when Irish abattoirs decided that the horsemeat scandal was over and they could pull the farm gate prices down. Then the UK leaving the EU would mean tariffs for Irish abattoirs at a UK border with Southern Ireland/EU could most likely to be 40%.
For the NI Farm Groups, they said, the solution was simple, lower the price to the farmer as far as possible. “Bearing in mind that the lion’s share of beef exported from Southern Ireland goes to the GB market, these abattoirs are determined to keep their orders in GB preferably without any additional cost, Brexit or no Brexit,” said a spokesperson.
“With beef consumption across the UK staying pretty constant in recent years along with the retail cost of beef despite pressure from veganism etc, the abattoirs, wholesalers and retailers must take responsibility for the ownership of the money that has been taken from farm gate prices since 2014.
“To conclude, on the statistics provided Brexit and horsemeat has indeed cost NI beef farmers, through no fault of their own, the £27 million plus in 2019, asked for by the UFU to Teresa Villiers and the Department for Agriculture NI last week. However, they omitted to request the £62.74 million lost between 2014-2018 to Northern Ireland beef farmers.” Lady Sylvia Hermon expressed her exasperation as to how beef farmers could stay in business after such losses. Nevertheless,she made it clear trying to recoup this via the Secretary for the Environment would be difficult with her mindset.