The main farmer unions for livestock farmers from England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and Ireland, represented by the NFU, NFUS, NFU Cymru, UFU and IFA met in Buxton, England this week to discuss key cattle and sheep issues.
IFA National Livestock Chairman Angus Woods, who attended the meeting, said beef farmers have come through a long hard winter and spring with very high costs. He said, in order to maintain a sustainable supply of high quality beef, retailers and processors must recognise that beef prices need to be above the costs of production, and this is currently is not the case.
On changes to specifications and price grids being imposed on producers by processors, Angus Woods said factories cannot act unilaterally in this area and will have to work with farmer representatives. He said weight and other penalties are totally unfair and will impose severe penalties on farmers. He said specifications must take account of the positive British and Irish production systems and price grids must be cost neutral to the sector.
On sheep, IFA National Sheep Chairman John Lynskey said price stability in the market for the next month is crucial as it sets the pattern for the rest of the season, which in turn will be key to incomes for sheep farmers in 2016. He said demand will increase over the next few weeks driven by the retail changeover to spring lamb and also by the festival of Ramadan which commences on 7th June.
The UK and Irish farm representatives were strongly supportive of work of the EU Sheep Reflection Group, which was set up by EU Agricultural Commissioner Phil Hogan. John Lynskey said, “It is essential that the EU Sheep Reflection Group brings forward a set strong and practical recommendations for the sheep sector focusing on the key issues of incomes, supports, consumption, promotions, trade and technology. In addition, the really positive public goods and value delivered by the sheep sector to the wider society must be fully recognised.”
On the EU trade negotiations for TTIP and Mercosur, Angus Woods welcomed the decision to remove the beef TRQ’s from the offer transmitted to the Mercosur countries by the EU and recognised the positive work of EU Agricultural Commissioner Phil Hogan in defending the beef sector.
Angus Woods said the EU cannot allow beef imports into the European market which fail to meet EU standards across the key areas of traceability, food safety and animal health controls, animal welfare and environmental standards including carbon footprinting. In addition, he said the EU must not proceed with any further negotiations until they complete and publish a full impact assessment of all the trade deals in the beef sector.