Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill has called on the Norther Ireland Meat Exporters Association (NIMEA) to re-think its proposed changes to the present beef pricing structures.

The minister was speaking after meeting representatives of NIMEA at Stormont where issues discussed included the recent fall in beef prices and proposed plans by NIMEA members to introduce penalties on cattle that do not meet the specifications for certain markets.

Minister O’Neill said: “I am concerned about the impact of changes to pricing structures on beef finishers who have bought store cattle earlier in the year under the conditions prevailing at that time. I want to see a strong, profitable red meat sector here in the North and that can only be achieved if farmers see a fair return for their high quality, traceable produce.

“I informed NIMEA that they need to re-think the changes they propose to introduce to the present system of pricing. Many farmers have houses full of finishing cattle, which were bought in good faith. It is not fair that they should be penalised for changes in pricing structure being introduced before these animals are out of the system.

“It is also important that timely and transparent communications are provided to both the farming representatives and wider industry, if any changes in specification or pricing arrangements are being proposed.

“I am therefore encouraging the processing industry to get together with the representative bodies of beef finishers to consider together the likely effect of any proposed changes, and so resolve any impact these may have on the final price paid to the producer.”

Minister O'Neill meets with NIMEA

Pictured were: Campbell Tweedie, President of NIMEA, DARD Minister Michelle O’Neill and Phelim O’Neill, Chief Executive of NIMEA