Horsemeat scandal must not be allowed to damage industry

ANGER is still the overriding emotion among the farming community as the horsemeat scandal continues to generate bad headline after bad headline for the food industry.

Horsemeat has been passed off as beef and it has been displacing beef. The incessant drive for low prices has taken a new twist and reached a new low point as some processors have cut corners with disregard for consumers and the industry’s reputation.

The Ulster Farmers’ Union has done everything it can to promote the reputation of our members who have done absolutely nothing wrong. Our leadership team have been on countless radio and tv news bulletins across the UK and beyond, outlining farmers anger at what has happened. The most recent development has been a series of meetings on Friday with the Livestock and Meat Commission, Consumer Council, NI Independent Retailers Association, British Retail Consortium, the NI Food and Drink Association and NIMEA.

The UFU has three key priorities which we are pursuing at this moment in time: retailers and the food Service sector must fully commit to the NI Farm Quality Assurance Scheme for beef; NI FQAS should now become a compulsory requirement in the public procurement process for local schools, hospitals and prisons; and farmers should not be asked to pay for any additional costs which emerge as a result of the scandal, such as the cost of additional DNA testing in the food chain.

The Union has already represented farmers in a series of meetings with MLA’s and MEP’s and at industry meetings hosted by the FSA. There must be natural justice for farmers and they should not have to pay an extra penny because of what has happened. Also we must do everything we can to ensure market prices both in the short and long run are not negatively affected by this. We can’t be sure what other twists will emerge in this story but the UFU will be working hard to press the case for our members with Government on public procurement and costs, and with processors and retailers on the need to get properly behind FQAS.