Union welcomes call on prices

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The Ulster Farmers’ Union has welcomed a call by the EFRA (environment, food and rural affairs) committee at Westminster for more action to tackle the differential between livestock prices in Great Britain and the devolved UK regions.

For Northern Ireland this is about the £30 million plus farmers lose because of this, and this was the key issue the UFU raised in its evidence to the committee.

“It is encouraging to see this is high on the select committee’s list of recommendations on farm-gate prices,” said UFU president, Ian Marshall.

In its report the committee calls for ‘more effective coordination’ between DEFRA in London and the devolved administrations to tackle ‘unsustainable price inequalities’.

“This means we have been successful in making our case. It is a big plus that MPs at Westminster have recognised the existence of the differential and the damage it causes for farmers,” said Mr Marshall.

The UFU recently criticised DARD in Northern Ireland for deeming this differential a commercial issue which was outside its remit.

“It’s clear from this report that this is not the case. We hope DEFRA will take on board this recommendation and seek ways to challenge why farmers in the UK regions lose out so badly, when what they produce is destined for the same supermarket shelves, in the same packaging with the same UK Red Tractor quality mark,” said Mr Marshall.

The UFU has also welcomed a recommendation from the EFRA committee that more needs to be done to make the origin of products clearer to consumers. The report says it is wrong that products can be described as UK origin, when the raw ingredients are imported.

SDLP MP for South Down, Margaret Ritchie, has welcomed the publication of the report, particularly the emphasis given to the regional price disparity for NI farmers.

Ms Ritchie said: “Northern Irish farmers face an unjustifiable disparity in the prices they get paid for their produce and this is punishing the farming industry during an already a volatile time. As an example, in 2015 the price differential for Northern Irish pork went as high as 19p/kg, costing our pork farmers £335,300 a week, despite our produce meeting same regulatory and quality standards of pork produced in Britain.

“For beef, prices have fallen further in Northern Ireland than they have in England, Scotland or Wales.”