Joint North/South approach agreed to tackle UK retailers on beef issues

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Simon Coveney met with the Northern Agriculture Ministers Michelle O’Neill MLA Dublin yesterday to discuss the current complex challenges facing the beef industry, including that of nomad cattle.

They agreed to approach a number of key UK retailers to explore a way forward in addressing the issues affecting North/South trade in cattle, which is normally high at this time of year, and to help build confidence in the beef market.

Currently ‘nomad cattle’, or cattle from the South for sale in the Northern Ireland, can be sold directly to abattoirs in the North but a price penalty is being applied, because some retailer customer specifications do not allow for the cattle to have spent time in more than one jurisdiction.

The Minister said last week that the potential to grow the live trade to the UK is constrained by the buying specifications operated by the British retail chains.

He said that it has long been retailers’ policy to market British and Irish beef separately and they are unlikely to reverse this soon. “While Bord Bia has repeatedly raised this issue with British retailers over the years, they are unlikely to reverse their marketing policy in the short term. The fact that the price of British beef has fallen significantly in recent times, and that the three UK retail outlets which stock Irish beef are currently under pressure to stock more British beef, is also a relevant consideration in this regard.”