Chairman of Stormont’s Agriculture Committee William Irwin MLA has spoken of his concern at the pricing differential for pork product between mainland Britain and Northern Ireland.
The differential has seen the prices in the mainland surge ahead of what is offered by processors in Northern Ireland by around 10-12p per kilo which in real terms translates to around £10 more per pig.
Speaking after a presentation by the UFU’s Ivor Ferguson in which the pricing differential was discussed in detail, Mr Irwin said the matter deserved recognition and appropriate action to “level the playing field”.
He said: “It was certainly useful to hear directly from the UFU representatives on this important issue. Pork production in Northern Ireland has undoubtedly suffered many serious downturns over the years and once again we see market practices working against the producer here in Northern Ireland and in my view unfairly.
“The critical issue here is we are talking about the same product being produced within the United Kingdom, within one country, yet one region of the UK is able to offer a higher price and another region undercuts the farmer significantly. The current price difference across pork, lamb and beef production has stripped these sectors in Northern Ireland of a ‘combined’ £32million over the past twelve months, with £10million alone being lost from the pork sector, that is significant and worrying.
“We are aware of the various excuses which have been put forward by processors here in Northern Ireland as to why this anomaly exists, however none of the reasons amount to a credible basis for undercutting nor does it give any comfort to our pig farmers who are experiencing harsh treatment by processors.
“Again our retailers must also share some responsibility for this situation as they are the last link in the delivery chain from the farm gate to the plate and it is quite clear that the gulf in pricing is only worsened by the policies and practices of the supermarkets. As Chair of the ARD committee I will continue to highlight these concerns and also encourage a focused debate between stakeholders on addressing the price differences.”