The coming week will see Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) leaders meeting with representatives of all the UK’s leading supermarkets to discuss the transparency, or lack of it, within the agri-food chain.
“This initiative will involve representatives of all the main UK farming unions,” said UFU chief executive Wesley Aston.
“It is a key priority for the union to ensure that farmers receive a fair price for the produce they are bringing to market.
“No doubt the retailers will be confirming their support for locally produced food, but we want to see them do more than this: they must act to ensure that farmers are receiving a fair return from the market place.”
Aston highlighted the current practice of supermarkets to pay their suppliers the same price, irrespective of where they are located in the UK.
“Yet, where beef is concerned, we still end up with a scenario which sees processors with plants throughout the UK paying farmers in Northern Ireland a lower price for their cattle,” he said.
“This is an intolerable situation, and we will be asking the supermarkets to ensure that farmers throughout the UK are paid the same price for stock.”
Meanwhile, pressure is growing on the European Commission to introduce new legislation, which will allow Brussels to officially audit all EU food retailers on a regular basis.
Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan will attend the Irish Ploughing Match tomorrow (Thursday) in Co Laois. It is expected that all of the farming organisations in attendance will use the opportunity of the visit to ask for a more forensic approach to be taken by Brussels when it comes to dealing with food retailers.
“We will be telling Mr Hogan that the Commission must introduce legislation that will allow Brussels to fully audit the food chain,” said Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association general secretary Eddie Punch.
“In addition, the full results of these audits must be made public. The current voluntary codes of practice, which operate at national level, are not fit for purpose.
“Retail food prices have remained steady over recent months, despite the fact that farmgate returns have fallen significantly during the same period. All of this adds fuel to farmers’ belief that they continue to be the big losers within the food chain.”