UK farming unions call for package to address beef market

"Suckler herd grazing in Co. Wicklow."
"Suckler herd grazing in Co. Wicklow."

The livestock chairmen of the four UK farming unions are calling for a package of measures, to address the dire situation of the beef market which has cost the sector over £169.5 million in the past nine months.

The call is being made following the UK livestock meeting which was dominated by concerns of how a no-deal Brexit would affect the beef market and the already weak farmgate prices.

UFU beef and lamb chairman Sam Chesney said: “The UK beef sector has already experienced a substantial financial loss and this doesn’t take into consideration the rising production costs. The beef industry is a major contributor to the local economy, but the sector has never been so vulnerable. The current beef prices are completely unsustainable and once again, the primary producer is taking the brunt of the price squeeze. Beef farmers are seriously questioning their future as they struggle to survive on an unfair income generated by low farmgate prices combined with the prolonged uncertainty of Brexit. With an extension date of 31st January confirmed, it does little to reassure our farmers as a no-deal scenario is not off the table just yet and the situation could get much worse.

“Now is the time for Government to step up to the mark, intervene with immediate effect and provide funding. There is also a real need to review the proposed no-deal tariff policies going forward, including tariff and quota level, the UFU has continually called for full WTO tariffs on beef meat to protect the internal UK market. Government have a crucial role to play in securing a positive future for our family run beef farms. Northern Ireland farmers were left frustrated and felt forgotten about when the Republic of Ireland gained a €100 million cash boost for their beef producers,” said Mr Chesney.

The UK’s ability to produce Farm Quality Assured beef, is in jeopardy unless these needs are met immediately, the Unions have claimed.

“The majority of the UK is already seeing a continuous fall in the suckler cow herd as a result of beef prices. This will persist and others in the supply chain will have to think about where they’re going to source beef from in the future, produce which may not be farmed to the high environmental and welfare standards that Northern Ireland is renowned for, unless we get a rapid price movement,” said Mr Chesney.

With the UK’s departure from the EU extended until the 31st January 2020, the four UK farming unions will continue to lobby Government to avoid a no-deal outcome, so the UK can leave the EU in a managed way that will ensure the future viability of Northern Ireland’s family-run farms.