‘Timing of lamb imports designed to undermine local prices’

The volume of lamb imported from New Zealand and Australia through Belfast port in 2015 is deeply concerning, according to Ulster Farmers’ Union, Deputy President Ivor Ferguson.

“Nearly 2500t of southern hemisphere lamb was imported.

“We believe this was mostly premium cuts such as loin chops and legs,” Ferguson said.

He added that the threat this posed to the local industry was clear when this was converted into lamb numbers.

“It represents a quarter of the carcase weight of lamb slaughtered in Northern Ireland last year – equivalent to around 120,000 lambs at a carcase weight of 21 kg.”

The UFU said it is often told by retailers and processors that imports are needed when the local supply is not there to meet demand.

However, the DARD figures show that over 80% of the lamb imported came in between April and October.

“This is deeply concerning for local farmers who saw their income drop considerably in 2015.

“While we know the euro affects sheep prices, the news that big volumes of cheap lamb are imported will further dent farmers’ confidence in the supply chain.”

Ferguson added that the timing of the imports was clearly designed to undermine local prices.

“By bringing in the bulk of imports during the peak season here, this was a deliberate effort to increase supplies and so put pressure on local lamb prices.

“This data confirms our view that the EU import quotas that New Zealand and Australia have for lamb need to be revised by the Commission.

“They must ensure that imports do not undermine domestic production within the EU.”