Marts and processors not showing much sympathy to beef producers

The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) says it has been contacted by many farmers who believe that the recent decision taken by some of the livestock markets to increase buyer’s commission all at the same time demonstrates that neither the marts or the processors are showing much sympathy to beef producers during this difficult year according to President Ian Marshall.

“During August, negotiations led by the Livestock and Meat Commission (LMC) and which the Union were involved in, concluded with a recommendation that going forward if residencies were displayed by livestock markets, individual meat plants would endeavour to handle cattle with more than four residencies in a sympathetic manner until January 1, 2015, he said.

“Unfortunately, the feedback coming through to us from farmers over the past month has indicated that this ‘sympathetic manner’ is almost non-existent and there is a strong consensus that meat plants must do more to facilitate these cattle with more than four residencies. We are all aware of how difficult this year has been for beef farmers with the collapse in farmgate prices and for processors to neglect all responsibility to cover the cost of this very unwelcome change in specification demonstrates how they take the raw materials farmers provide them with for granted.

“Furthermore, throughout this whole debacle around residencies, farmers expected that livestock markets would eventually do as their customers wanted and display the number of residencies all cattle have at point of sale. However, not only was this significantly delayed but to make this situation worse many farmers will now be aware that certain livestock markets have increased the buyer’s commission on cattle. While we originally welcomed the marts decision to provide this information some weeks ago, the fact that so many of them increased their commission all at the same time has left the many farmers who have contacted us questioning whether the marts are as loyal to farmers as they claim.”

He also said that despite this sorry mess it is encouraging that the live export trade has strengthened and buyers are competing hard for quality Northern Ireland cattle, including those with more than four residencies. “The Union would ordinarily have encouraged more livestock farmers to make use of this opportunity to drive competition and maximise returns for cattle. However, unless some of these marts take a reality check and revise their commission downwards, a lot of farmers will question whether they are any better than the processors.”