The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) beef and lamb committee is calling on Government to take action to tackle the immediate drop in beef and lamb prices.
Prior to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, Northern Ireland U-3 steer price was around 338-340p/kg. Last week’s factory quotes stood at 316-320p/kg which, according to organisation, equates to a loss of £76 on a 380kg carcass.
“Cull cows have also experienced a substantial drop in both quotes and price. Processors have indicated that further deductions are yet to come.”
Northern Ireland lamb prices before the pandemic were approximately 460-480p/kg, falling overnight to 4.15p/kg equating to a loss of £14.30 on a 22kg carcass.
Following the UFU beef and lamb committee teleconference to discuss the decline in prices, chairman Sam Chesney said the supply chain has been “dramatically” interrupted because of COVID-19 with the food service sector almost coming to a “complete shutdown”.
“Beef and sheep processing are complex and there are multiple factors within the production process such as carcass balance, that must be fully considered.”
“Cuts of sirloin, fillet and ribs, in particular, have taken the biggest hit. These products were destined for hotels, restaurants, conference centres and other events but with strict restriction measures now in place to slow the spread of the virus, orders have been cancelled or postponed for the foreseeable future.”
“Processors are indicating that waste, offal and other by-products are practically impossible to shift as a result of COVD-19. How consumers do their shopping has also changed as a result of the pandemic adding further pressure.”
He said that beef and sheep producers entered this pandemic in a poor financial position. “Producer costs for feed and fertiliser have also increased in recent weeks due to the outbreak.”
Chesney pointed out that there are 19,809 beef and sheep producers in Northern Ireland who will be affected financially by price drops, more so when input costs “soar in the other direction”.
“We urge the Government to step in now to prevent a complete collapse before it’s too late.”
“We need measures put in place to safeguard the beef and lamb industry so that when we come out the other side of this pandemic we are in a sustainable position.”
The UFU said it is continuing to lobby on behalf of its members to gain support for the beef and lamb sector and discussions with DAERA Minister Edwin Poots are ongoing.