The Assembly’s Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee (AERA) has called on Minister Poots to do all that he can to ensure that local beef farmers are prioritised by both supermarkets and processors.
The committee’s concerns arise from recent reports that the ABP Food Group, which supplies meat products to Sainsbury’s and ASDA, had, at the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, been distributing Polish beef in lieu of local beef produce to supplement its existing supply arrangements to supermarkets.
The committee chairperson, Declan McAleer MLA said: “While ABP has indicated that the supply of Polish beef was a temporary solution to meet the recent unprecedented needs of the consumer, the committee cannot fathom why the local processing sector was not in a position to meet this demand.”
“The COVID-19 crisis is placing our local beef farmers under tremendous financial pressure, with many already facing hardship and an uncertain future.
“It is crucial that the Minister recognises this, and does everything within his power to ensure that local farmers are prioritised and that the necessary systems are in place so that local processors can supply local produce.”
Support for beef farmers
The committee is calling on the Minister to directly to outline the actions he is taking to provide assistance to local beef farmers, and to ensure that, as the “most vital step” in the food supply chain, they are “fully” supported to meet the demands of this crisis.”
“The committee is further concerned that for the farmer, prices are collapsing, despite what appears to be a very high and unprecedented demand for produce.”
The committee took an opportunity to underline to wholesale distributors and to consumers, the importance of buying local produce and supporting local retailers.”
“The beef our local farmers produce is of the finest quality – we must all do our part to support and help them in sustaining their livelihoods during these uncertain and unprecedented times.” McAleer concluded.
The committee has said it also written to the supermarkets to voice its disappointment and concern and to ask that they ensure a similar situation does not arise in the future.