NI livestock farmers at ‘massive disadvantage’ from price gap

Beef, lamb and pig producers in Northern Ireland (NI) are being put at a “massive disadvantage” to those in the rest of the UK because of lower farmgate prices, says the Ulster Farmers Union (UFU).

In the week ending 16 January, the average deadweight steer price in NI was 316.7p/kg, but 337.3p/kg in Great Britain (GB).

For lambs, the average deadweight in NI was 359.5p/kg and 388.9p/kg in GB. 

The lower prices paid to NI producers was despite their products often ending on the same supermarket shelves as those from farmers elsewhere in the UK, said the UFU. 

This was because many producers sold to processors that operated in NI and GB.

“It is vital steps are taken to tackle this continuing problem. The supply chain cannot be allowed to consider us as a cheap source to fill UK supermarket shelves,”  said Ivor Ferguson, deputy president of the UFU.

Processors without NI operations were also being put at a disadvantage, said Mr Ferguson.

“[Processors operating in NI and GB] can offer product to the major retailers at a much cheaper price than those who operate solely in GB.

“It is then no surprise that GB-based processors feel aggrieved if they lose business because a NI-GB processor is willing to offer cheaper UK quality assured produce to the market.”

The union said it was “frustrated and disappointed” by the “weak arguments” used by the retailers to justify the price differential.

The UFU is trying to raise awareness of the issue and has submitted evidence to the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs committee. 

“We have followed that committee’s farmgate prices investigation with interest and are aware local MPs have made representations about this price differential,” said Mr Ferguson.

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