UFU demands answers over cattle imports

Beef and sheep farmer Sam Chesney recently welcomed a group of around 100 animal scientists to his Kircubbin farm, where he shared information about his low cost, grass-based system. Pictured is Sam in a field reseeded in spring with Morton's Balmoral Mixture, which includes top performing varieties on the DARD Recommended List.
Beef and sheep farmer Sam Chesney recently welcomed a group of around 100 animal scientists to his Kircubbin farm, where he shared information about his low cost, grass-based system. Pictured is Sam in a field reseeded in spring with Morton's Balmoral Mixture, which includes top performing varieties on the DARD Recommended List.

The Ulster Farmers’ Union says it is frustrated that some meat plants have increased direct imports of cattle for slaughter when there are plenty of high quality, local cattle available.

UFU beef and lamb chairman, Sam Chesney, pictured, says this is a ‘smack in the face for local farmers’ and reflects why the relationship between farmers and processors is often strained.

He added: “Put simply farmers find it hard to trust the meat plants. For many this will confirm that their distrust is fully justified.”

Mr Chesney’s comments were made after import figures for January showed that almost 1400 prime cattle were imported from the Republic of Ireland (ROI) for direct slaughter. This compares with 234 for January 2018. The UFU has challenged those importing cattle to explain their decision to local farmers.

“Farmers have been finding it difficult to book cattle into plants and now we know why. We understand meat plants make commercial decisions, but this demonstrates bad faith when the supply is there and processors still choose to import. Farmers are already struggling with margins and increased imports add to unnecessary queues and depressed prices,” said Mr Chesney.

The UFU is encouraging those meat plants importing to review their current practices and follow the lead of those prepared to back local farmers.

“We feel our criticism is fair and we urge those importing cattle to take a longer-term view of the importance of their supply base here by rethinking this short-term strategy and getting behind local farmers,” said the UFU beef and lamb chairman, who is a County Down beef producer.

The UFU has requested meetings with the meat plants that increased imports of prime cattle from ROI in January 2019.