Supply Chain Forum ‘must tackle price gap’

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Farmers in Northern will lose £30 million this year, because of the difference between what they are paid for pork, beef and lamb and what their counterparts elsewhere in the UK receive, it has been claimed.

Ulster Farmers’ Union deputy president, Ivor Ferguson, says the Agri-Food Strategy Board’s Supply Chain Forum must prioritise this issue if it is to win the backing of farmers.

Commenting after the first meeting of the forum he said this price differential is putting livestock producers here at a massive disadvantage. “This is something the Agri-Food Strategy Board and the DARD minister, Michelle O’Neill, must take seriously. If they do not do so this new forum will not win the support of farmers,” he said. Admitting these price differentials are not new, he said this did not make them acceptable when products meet the same standard and are sold at the same price by supermarkets.

Farmers in Northern Ireland often supply local processors with business interests in GB, meaning meat from here ends up in the same markets and same packaging. “We need explanations as to why this is still happening and how processors justify the price gap. We also need recognition of the need for effective action to deliver more equitable returns for producers here,” Mr Ferguson said.

He drew parallels between this unfair treatment of local farmers and a major retailer criticised recently for deciding not to pay their staff in Northern Ireland the living wage.