This week UFU representatives from the livestock sector participated in the Brussels demonstration highlighting the difficulties being experienced by all sectors within the European agriculture industry.
The UFU also used this visit to meet with the other UK farming unions, NFU, NFU Scotland and NFU Wales to discuss matters currently having an impact on the beef and sheep sector.
Red Tractor Lifetime Assurance: Red Tractor recently announced that they intended to proceed with lifetime assurance for beef. The UFU explained that NI farmers are completely opposed to this proposal, as is the rest of the red meat industry in Northern Ireland. Concerns about the additional costs, bureaucracy and lack of financial incentive were all highlighted. It was also noted that there are considerable practical difficulties with the deliverance of lifetime assurance and the UFU questioned whether there was even any market demand for this proposal. Overall, there was agreement amongst all the Unions that Red Tractor should have conducted the consultation process in a more constructive manner and that discussions are now required quickly with Red Tractor to discuss the range of views on their proposals.
Code of practice for sheep: While farmers in Northern Ireland are experiencing difficulties with the lamb price differential between NI and GB, the other UK Farming Unions also explained that they too wish to see greater transparency and consistency from processors in the sheep sector. While there have been European controls in place for beef processing for quite some time, currently there is limited coverage for sheep. The UK farming unions have called for a European taskforce to examine the potential for compulsory price reporting and standard dressing specifications for the UK.
New Zealand lamb quota: The UFU membership recently raised concerns about New Zealand’s lamb export quota with the EU. The UFU highlighted that where the quota was originally designed with the import of whole lamb carcases in mind, this has changed significantly in recent years with New Zealand primarily exporting prime cuts to the EU. Essentially this means that New Zealand is getting far greater value from their quota than they would have previously by exporting their premium cuts to the EU and the lower value cuts to other markets. The UK Unions have agreed that this must be raised with the European Commission as soon as possible and support will also be sought from other EU farming unions.
New Zealand lamb labelling: The UFU highlighted concerns about the fact that some retailers were selling lamb labelled as ‘produced in the UK from New Zealand and Australia.’ Having reported this to the local authorities, it is clear that this is a breach of EU labelling laws and the UFU is encouraging farmers and consumers to be vigilant for this type of activity and report it to either the Food Standards Agency or Environmental Health.
Lamb promotion: The UK Unions discussed the difficulties with lamb consumption in the UK and the need for sufficient funding being made available for lamb promotion to help stimulate demand.
The unions also highlighted that the supply chain needs to be encouraged to be more innovative with lamb products which are quick and easy to make, eg. lamb burgers.