Farmers for Action (FFA) will host a farmer protest outside the offices of the Northern Ireland Meat Exporters Association (NIMEA) in Lisburn, Co Antrim at noon today. This is in response to the recent fall in beef prices and the attempts now being made by Northern meat processers to introduce ‘residency’ conditions into the specification criteria for finished cattle.

“The time has come for beef and sheep farmers to take charge of their industry.  Needless penalties imposed, poor prices and an outdated pricing grid by large abattoirs in recent years have only been surpassed by the most recent abattoir fund raiser of a four movement penalty in an attempt to force livestock marts out of business, thereby leaving large abattoirs with even more control. Al of these developments are totally unacceptable,” FFA’s William Taylor told AgriLand.

He added “Farmers are not prepared to accept a four movement limit and penalty or any other movement limit and penalty combination instigated by abattoirs. And the same principle holds regarding other £150 penalties that are not in line with good EU practice.”

Mr Taylor continued “Anything less than the top prices for UK wide beef and lamb will not be acceptable. Prices that reflect the true cost of production plus a margin that s inflation linked must be made available to beef finishers.”

Meanwhile, the Northern Ireland Livestock Auctioneers’ Association (NILAA) has confirmed the tremendous degree of support that it has received from farmers on the organisation’s objection to the imposition of abattoir fines for cattle which have moved more than four times.

An NILAA representative said “Livestock markets are there to provide a vehicle for the trading of cattle etc. and that any move to reduce the number of moves by fining cattle that have moved more than four times is an attempt to manipulate the market by directly restricting the free trading of cattle.

“There is no veterinary or animal welfare justification for restricting the number of moves: there is full traceability throughout the food chain. Also in Northern Ireland the majority of cattle travel less than 60 miles unlike in Britain. As an aside British marts do not declare number of moves at time of sale. While the consumer is rightly concerned about the safety of the product they are not requesting these restrictions, as they have no bearing on traceability or quality.

“Due to very poor weather conditions last year a number of cattle moved more times due to lack of fodder, cash flow etc. these cattle will be affected this year and abattoirs are therefore adding to the misery of 2013.”