‘Live cattle exports will help boost beef farmers incomes’

Live export of cattle must be encouraged and supported by the Department of Agriculture in Northern Ireland to help boost beef farmers’ incomes, according to Ulster Farmers’ Union President, Barclay Bell.

Speaking after an LMC seminar on reducing barriers to the live trade to the rest of the UK, Bell described the beef price difference in the UK price league table as a major financial disparity.

For too long beef producers here have been kept at the bottom of the UK price league table.

“Last week, the difference between Northern Ireland and Great Britain on R3 steers was 24p/kg. On a 350 kg animal that is over £80”, Bell said.

“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 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 (ROI). We believe the DAERA minister should follow that lead,” the UFU President said.

Meanwhile, with prices dictated by supply and demand farmers need the opportunity to secure access to the best paying markets, Bell also said.

“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.

The UFU says that in the drive to open new markets the LMC seminar helped trigger a constructive debate between industry and government about how barriers to live exports can be eased.

Some barriers that face farmers and hauliers here do not exist in Great Britain, particularly in relation to the movement of healthy cattle to slaughter from TB restricted herds, according to the UFU.