UFU stress concerns on current beef and sheep market

Monday, 19 August, 2019

The Ulster Farmers’ Union has written to Northern Ireland Secretary of State, Julian Smith, DAERA Permanent Secretary, Denis McMahon, and leading NI politicians, to stress the urgent need for improved farm gate prices.

UFU beef and lamb chairman Sam Chesney said, “Beef and sheep farmers are completely disillusioned with the ongoing situation in the marketplace. The farm gate price for beef produced in NI has continuously decreased since Autumn 2018 while lamb has been taking a serious downward turn since spring 2019. The decline in prices has been aggravated by the prospect of the UK leaving the EU and has created a completely unsustainable situation for NI farmers. How can they be expected to produce quality food when input costs are rising constantly and live of such belittling income? This is a matter of urgency; the future of Northern Ireland’s family farm structure is on the line and Government needs to address the issue before its too late.”

With a solution to avoiding a no-deal Brexit still to be found, this is causing distress for NI beef and sheep farmers as they are unable to plan ahead due to the uncertainty surrounding Brexit.

“The current situation of Brexit isn’t helping matters. The no-deal tariff plans will drive down already squeezed farm gate prices even more and could put many beef and sheep farmers out of business. Our farmers are being plagued by the unknown, they can’t plan ahead in a marketplace that hasn’t got a fixed guaranteed price. Many are living in fear of where they will be after Brexit,” said Mr Chesney.

In contrast to the declining farm gate prices, a startling survey from the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB), shows that the retail price for beef on average, increased by 8.25p/kg over the eight beef cuts compared to the same period in July 2018. The most expensive product, fillet steak, seen an increase of 22p/kg. Premium mince also increased by 22p/kg, with sirloin steak seeing the largest increase of 35p/kg.

“In order to have a thriving, sustainable agri-food industry, everyone must profit. It doesn’t make sense that retail prices have risen and yet our farmers, who provide the vital foundation for beef and lamb products, are barely making ends meet. All we want is for beef and sheep farmers to get a fair and sustainable price, it’s the least they deserve. We hope that by writing a letter of concern to NI Secretary of State, DAERA Permanent Secretary and NI politicians, will activate Government to help stabilise justifiable farm gate prices and play their part in ensuring that the future of family run farms is viable,” said the UFU beef and lamb chairman.