Ulster Farmers’ Union, beef and lamb chairman, Sam Chesney, has warned that beef prices must strengthen, as farmers finishing cattle continue to suffer heavy losses.
He says prices for R-3 steer have slumped from 359p/kg this time last year to 345p/kg now – stressing that neither of these prices offers a sound foundation for a viable beef industry.
“Producers have faced downward price pressure in recent months. This is having a negative impact on farm incomes at a time of year when costs are high,” said Mr Chesney.
“Winter finishing rations have increased by 24 per cent, from around £185 to £230/per tonne, and straw is costing up to £180 a tonne, a 30 per cent increase. Farmers simply cannot afford to live with beef prices below the cost of production.”
The UFU beef and lamb chairman is urging all producers to negotiate hard for better prices, and to resist all pressure to accept quotes currently on offer from processors.
“Farmers need to know their own cost of production to make the changes they can deliver within the farm gate. They need to book cattle in advance and ensure they shop around for the best deal. The live market seems strong now so farmers must consider all possible options when selling stock,” he said.
Mr Chesney added that in uncertain political and economic times farmers and processors needed to work together to ensure the beef industry is profitable and has a viable future.
“Farmers are struggling as they carry the burden of rising production costs. All we want is for beef farmers to get a fair and sustainable price - one that will keep both farmers and processors in business,” said Mr Chesney.