24-10-2012 13:20 PM | Cattle, News

Cattle with pre-fix UK9 ear tag 'should be selling at average price'



Over recent weeks Northern Ireland’s beef farmers have asked a question and the only answers have come from within the Republic of Ireland (ROI) – and not, as might be expected, from the Northern Ireland Meat Exporters Association (NIMEA).

”All we want to know is why, when our cattle ear tag numbers are pre-fixed UK9 which confirms our legitimate position within the UK beef cattle market, are our cattle being discounted by over 11 per cent, or about £150 a head, compared with the average for those sold elsewhere within UK boundaries,” explained the National Beef Association’s Northern Ireland chairman, Oisin Murnion?

“The most interesting response is attributed to Bord Bia (Irish Food Board) sources which are reported to have told journalists in the ROI that beef from cattle produced in NI is more likely to be sold to high paying mainland retailers, instead of exported onto less high priced markets, and also benefits from being backed with Red Tractor assurance through the Livestock and Meat Commission’s (LMC) FQAS assurance scheme.”

“On top of this Bord Bia sources are said to have confirmed that higher prices for British, or UK, beef are paid by UK retailers on the back of a clear preference for product that is sourced domestically and that any investigation into the discount on NI cattle, when compared to mainland cattle, may discover that the difference is, in part at least, due to the import for direct slaughter of so many cattle from south of the border.”

“The most recent import figures confirmed by the DARD are that during the week ending October 13th some 1,198 head where trucked in from the south for direct slaughter in NI factories.”

“This is almost 12 per cent of total factory throughput that week, including cows, and the NBA is quite sure that the presence of such high volumes of non-NI cattle on NI slaughter lines continued to contribute to the on-going price penalty of around £150 a head that hard pressed NI feeders and finishers have to face.”

“However in contrast with the reflective and analytical comments attributed to Bord Bia the most recent contribution from NIMEA to discussion on this issue is to claim that the importation of up to 15 per cent of overall factory beef throughput from another EU member state is the beef industry equivalent of nothing more than crossing the border to buy cheaper fuel for the car.”

“And then adds insult to injury by suggesting that counter moves by desperate finishers to sell some cattle direct to mainland buyers is a positive farmer initiative - when in reality it is a forced venture by small businessmen desperate to recover some costs while the processors who ought to be handling their stock focus on improving their margins by buying much cheaper cattle from another EU country instead.”

“There is something fundamentally wrong with this scenario and so the NBA asks, once again, why when our cattle ear tag numbers are pre-fixed UK9 which confirms our legitimate position within the UK beef cattle market, are our cattle being discounted by over 11 per cent, or about £150 a head, compared with the average for those sold elsewhere within UK boundaries?” Mr Murnion added.

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