Volume and Price of Imports an 'Insult' to Producers

NORTHERN IRELAND, UK- The volume of cattle imported to Northern Ireland (NI) from the Republic of Ireland and the price paid is an insult to NI producers says the National Beef Association.
calendar icon 7 November 2012
clock icon 3 minute read

Northern Ireland’s processors are preventing farmers from benefiting from the extraordinary price premium generated by UK consumer loyalty to home produced beef by continuing to import around 12-13 per cent of the product collectively handled in their factories from another EU country.

Simultaneously they are benefiting hugely themselves because the artificial surplus the imports create means they are able to purchase fully assured cattle for the premium paying mainland market, for an average of around £130 a head less than the average offered for similar quality cattle in GB itself, even though their beef is sold to the same bloc of retail customers.

“The gap between NI and mainland ex-farm prices over the week ending October 27th has been confirmed by DARD and shows that average weight R3 steers in NI were £117 a head cheaper and that the gap for R4s was £136.” said the National Beef Association’s Northern Ireland chairman, Oisin Murnion.

“However market reports published in the ROI indicate that processors are so keen to maintain this artificial, and hugely advantageous, discount that they were prepared to offer flat rate payments in the region of 328p-324p for R and O grade stock on farms south of the border just to keep the flow running.”

“These payments, which if the reports are correct appear to be yet another means of artificially reducing NI’s weekly average, are an insult to every beef farmer in the Province because they were around £30-£65 per head higher than those offered within the Province itself for cattle of the same type which are UK sourced and therefore have important FQAS and Red Tractor qualifications.”

“NBA members, and other beef farmers, would be very pleased if NIMEA was able to say that beef market commentators in the ROI got it wrong when they reported that flat rate purchases at such an advantageous premium were not being offered to southern finishers providing cattle that would be immediately processed in NI factories.”

“The Association would also like to hear directly from NIMEA about the ultimate destination of the 12-13 per cent or so of prime beef that is harvested in the Province each week from cattle delivered for immediate slaughter from the ROI and is therefore not backed by FQAS and cannot be sold to the UK’s principal retailers,” states Mr Murnion

“It asked this question a month ago but has still to receive, or read, a reply. Imports at that level account for a huge proportion of total factory throughput, particularly if it is combined with beef taken from store cattle of southern origin which if finished for more than 90 days qualify for FQAS but not the Red Tractor.”

“The NBA is sure that it is not the only organization that is curious about the ultimate destination of non FQAS, and non-Red Tractor, beef and looks forward to receiving a response,” Mr Murnion added.

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