Beef men seek probe into NI cartel

By FWi staff

THE National Beef Association has written to the Office of Fair Trading asking it to investigate producers claims of a cartel between processors in Northern Ireland.

The Association has asked the OFT for help in explaining why prime cattle averages in Northern Ireland are allegedly 11% less than the English price – even though the animals are similarly bred and about 80% of their meat is sold on the British market.

“The fact R4L cattle in Northern Ireland are making just 160p/kg deadweight compared with 180p in England is a constant puzzle to us, so we have asked the OFTs Cartels Task Force if they can assist by finding an explanation,” said Robert Forster, NBA chief executive.

“We pointed out that the Northern Irish beef industry is dominated by just five companies and that their prices, as reported by the independent Livestock Marketing Commission, rise and fall in unison with little or no immediate evidence of competitive quoting.”

Because beef from Northern Ireland is purchased at such a discount, Mr Forster fears any price-fixing system in the province must be a drag on English, Scottish and Welsh cattle prices, too.

The NBA has told the Task Force that it has done its best to make accurate comparisons .

It believes its assertion – that a 10-12% discount, currently worth about £60 on a 320kg steer carcass, has been in position since the export-led market for Northern Irish beef was abruptly shut down in March 1996 – is correct.

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