Northern Irish steers are making €250/head more than their “southern” equivalent, the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA) has claimed.

Commenting on the matter, ICMSA livestock chairperson Des Morrison drew attention to the 70c/kg difference between ‘Northern’ beef prices and their ‘Southern’ counterparts.

Morrison described the difference as “staggering and inexplicable”, estimating that this amounts to a difference of €250 to €300 for the ‘Northern’ equivalent of ROI R3 steers in Northern and UK factory prices

“We drew attention to this gulf in price earlier this year, but it’s still there and we’re now seeing it in marts close to the border versus further south,” the ICMSA chairman added.

“We are seeing angus-bred cattle making €2.50 to €260/kg [live weight] in the marts,” Morrison said.

“What’s infuriating is seeing factory buyers willing to compete with northern buyers at the marts and pay above the cost of production – but dropping those prices when farmers bring cattle directly to the factory for slaughter. Why not give the money directly to the farmers?

“If the factory buyers are willing to pay €4.50 – €4.90/kg [dead weight] at the marts then we’re looking at approximately €200 per head, as well as QA [quality assurance] bonus on top of that.

“I can’t understand why the factories can’t give those prices to farmers if they’re prepared to pay them competing with the buyers in marts?

“The net result is that, in what’s considered to be a reasonably good time for beef prices, we’re actually still below the costs of production,” the ICMSA chairman concluded.