Farming Unions seek clarification on customer specification requirements

Wednesday, 19 March, 2014

The Ulster Farmers’ Union along with National Farmers’ Union, NFU Scotland, NFU Cymru and the Irish Farmers’ Association are seeking clarification on customer specification requirements for beef following the recent increases in deductions on ‘out of spec’ cattle across the UK and Ireland.

UFU Beef and Lamb Chairman Robert Davidson said, “At the end of last week we held urgent discussions with the farming unions across the UK and Ireland to discuss the tightening in specification and resulting implications for farmers.  There are variations as to the level of deductions applied and the specifications required; however the proposed penalties being bandied about in Northern Ireland seem to be the most severe.  Beef farmers simply cannot afford to withstand these excessive financial penalties on top of the current drop in beef prices.  We would therefore call on our processors to rethink their position on this.

“The increasing requirements of the retailers was also discussed and it was emphasised that any requirements placed on farmers must be proportional and ultimately practical at farm level.  There is a responsibility on our supply chain partners to recognise the high legal and quality standards to which our farmers produce beef and that anything additional to this must be not be unduly bureaucratic or difficult to comply with or indeed inhibit competition.  We need more long term thinking and much better communication with farmers of what is required and the rationale behind it.

“One of the main areas of confusion is the final residency period pre-slaughter which can vary from customers requiring no specific period at all to those asking for upwards of 90 days on the final farm prior to slaughter.  Given the variation in the residency period there would appear to be no scientific basis for those which are applied.  Instead it represents a trade restriction as there is the potential to limit the live trade to direct slaughter and the likes of fat stock sales.”

The unions agreed to seek clarification on customer specification requirements and the rationale behind them.  It was jointly agreed that the market requirements must be practical at farm level and not inhibit competition, whilst better communication with farmers is needed.