Farmers For Action press release: December 2015

16th December 2015

 

Crossroads for Beef & Sheep Farmers

Farmers For Action UK NI’s co-ordinator William Taylor says, ‘beef and sheep farmers across UK and Ireland are at a crossroads of financial survival.’

The FFA man continued, adding to their woes on farm gate prices is the announcement that the Larry Goodman owned ABP Group is about to take a 50% investment in Slaney Meats Southern Ireland, the other half owned by Linden Foods NI is rightly of grave concern to beef and sheep farmers in southern Ireland and across the UK.

This is especially relevant to GB farmers with the recent announcement that ABP is to further tighten the noose on farmers who have imported stores from southern Ireland to finish, now to be faced with a penalty when presented to an ABP abattoir.

From the outside it appears that famers are being increasingly forced to reduce their farm investments and activities due to reducing margins, this in itself an unsustainable position while large food processors, large food retailers and large food wholesalers expand relentlessly.

The current take over, subject to the southern Ireland competition authority approval will, accordingly to Irish Cattle and Sheep Association who are on their case, see the ABP Group having control of some 28% of beef processing in Ireland and 40% of sheep processing.

In short the deal will further increase the all-powerful dominant position of a small number of players in the meat processing sector in Ireland while beef and sheep farmers’ position trying to achieve a fair price will be further weakened.

Worst of all is the mistrust southern Ireland farmers have not only of abattoirs and retailers but that their competition authority will act in farmers best interests after it last year threatened the Southern Ireland Government led beef stakeholder forum making the case if there was any effort to increase prices in an organised way by farmers that they would feel the full wrath of the competition authority!

As ICSA correctly points out it will be interesting to see if there is any concern shown by the authority about the potential of this merger to further weaken the position of farmers.

For Northern Ireland’s part and the UK effect this merger will have, the question that must be asked; Will ABP now set their sight on taking over Linden Foods, the other 50% of Slaney Meats and perhaps Linden foods in Northern Ireland? Meanwhile, strong rumours abound about the sale of Dunbia to the Chinese, with Dunbia not denying that they are for sale.

Currently it has been stated that Irish abattoirs own 30% of the UK’s abattoirs but they control 70% of the meat sold. It’s time for the Westminster Government, regional GB Governments, the Northern Ireland Government and the Southern Ireland Governments to wake-up and smell the coffee! Your beef and sheep farmers are going out of business, care of the corporates. If you don’t need food tell us now, but by some chance if you need fed in another five hours then it’s time to implement legislation on farm gate prices, demanding a minimum of the cost of production plus a margin inflation linked as a safety net at the farm gate, like that being proposed by the non-optional blue print for rural Northern Ireland agriculture.

This is set to be a hot topic in the run up to the Northern Ireland’s local 2016 election where NI could be set to create prosperity, not only in rural NI but across the province, the Roosevelt way.

This is perceived by FFA UK NI and Northern Ireland Agricultural Producers Association (NIAPA) as the only way for farmers to not only stay in business but flourish by getting a fair deal against the might of the corporates – anyone got an alternative at this crossroads, not only on beef and sheep but across the staples as will be the case in Northern Ireland with the blueprint?

56 Cashel Road, Macosquin, Coleraine, BT51 4NU

Tel. 028 703 43419 / 07909744624 Email taylor.w@btconnect.com

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