The UFU Executive Committee met in Loughry College, Cookstown earlier this week to discuss the current major issues being dealt with by the Union.
While it has only been four weeks since the last meeting of the UFU Executive the Union has been involved in many and wide ranging issues.
The EU referendum topped the agenda. At the end of last week the Prime Minister outlined the deal which he had re-negotiated with the other European Member States and has since confirmed a referendum date of 23 June this year. With this in mind UFU members discussed the pros and cons of EU membership.
Also on the agenda were commodity issues which have been particularly prominent over the past month. The dairy committee have noted that milk prices continue to decline with the Fonterra GDT auction average down last week by 2.8%.
In addition to the union’s activities to address immediate cash flow difficulties, it is also working with Dairy UK (NI) on an initiative on the introduction of measures to manage margins along the supply chain from farm to supermarket shelf.
Representatives from the beef and lamb committee last week drew attention to DARD’s lack of willingness to help address the £17 million 2015 NI/GB producer price differential and instead focusing on all Ireland labelling.
The Agriculture Minister created the Food Supply Chain Forum to address issues such as this and should be seeking justification from retailers and processors for this differential while also pursuing ways to increase the number of cattle exported live from Northern Ireland.
UFU meetings with retailers on beef and lamb issues continues with a recent meeting with ASDA but figures recently obtained from DARD on Northern Ireland’s 2015 lamb imports are deeply concerning with nearly 2,500 tonnes or representing almost a quarter of the carcase weight of lamb slaughtered in Northern Ireland last year having been imported from New Zealand and Australia and matters are made worse as 80% of these imports taking place during our main lamb supply period from April to October.
This has again confirmed the union’s position that the EU import quotes held by the Southern Hemisphere countries need to be revised by the EU Commission to avoid undermining European production.