NORTHERN IRELAND, UK - The President of the Ulster Farmers’ Union , Barclay Bell, says the live export of cattle from Northern Ireland to Great Britain must be encouraged and supported to help boost beef farmers' incomes.
Mr Bell was speaking after an LMC seminar on reducing barriers to the live trade to Great Britain.
"For too long beef producers here have been kept at the bottom of the UK price league table. Last week, the difference between NI and GB on R3 steers was 24p/kg. On a 350 kg animal that is over £80," said Mr Bell, describing this as a major financial disparity.
“With margins so tight, farmers rightly question how cattle supplied to the same processing companies, to the same quality assurance standard and ending up in the same supermarket shelves can be worth so much less here than in Great Britain,” he said.
The UFU's beef and lamb committee believes Northern Ireland's Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) can help tackle this is by encouraging an increase in cattle exports.
“This has been a priority for the agriculture minister in the Republic of Ireland. We believe the DAERA minister should follow that lead,” said Mr Bell. The UFU President added that with prices dictated by supply and demand farmers need the opportunity to secure access to the best paying markets.
“The improved sheep trade this year has been a good example, with a weaker pound injecting much needed competition into the live market from ROI processors. However beef producers have more limited options, meaning the majority of cattle are slaughtered locally. This leaves processors here facing little competition for stock,” said Mr Bell.
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