National Beef Association
For everyone with an interest in the British beef industry

Press Release - Are such huge imports of slaughter cattle from ROI damaging NI's FQAS and the Red Tractor farm assurance system?

17th October 2012

Region: Northern Ireland

Over the week ending October 5th the exact actual price differential between average weight R4L steers sold on the mainland and those sold in Northern Ireland was 42.2per dwkg or £154.74p per head.

And that same week 1,064 prime cattle, the equivalent of 13.8 per cent of total factory throughput in the Province, was imported directly for slaughter from the Republic of Ireland (ROI) where the average value of R4L steers was 17.6p less than the NI price and the price gap on an average weight carcase was £64.53p.

“These are real figures taken from official price reports that are also submitted to the European Commission and they show, quite clearly, just how wide the yawning gap between ex-farm prices in NI and Great Britain has become,” declared the National Beef Association’s Northern Ireland chairman, Oisin Murnion.

“The calculation is also based on the official average steer carcase weight in the UK over August, which is the latest figure available, and was 366.7kg. These figures can be checked out by anyone who wishes to do so and no one can question them because they correct.”


“What is up for question is the sheer width of the NI-GB price gap – which I repeat for an average weight R4L steer is £154.74p per head for cattle that are similarly bred, similarly fed and whose beef is mainly targeted at the same retail customers.”

The NBA has no doubt that the regular importation of cattle making up 13-14 per cent of Northern Ireland’s weekly kill and, using the same R4L weight/price formula, are £64.53p per head cheaper is continuing to have a profoundly depressing effect on beef farmer incomes throughout the Province.

“How can it be otherwise? If the factories are short of throughput they should compete amongst themselves for the NI cattle they need to secure it and not hold down prices by bringing in much cheaper stock from elsewhere,” asked Mr Murnion?

“And if they claim they are using NI slaughter capacity only to process orders for customers asking exclusively for ROI beef they should handle these cattle in the factories they own down South and not bring them up here where they take the heat out procurement and help to create a buyer’s market.”

The NBA is also puzzled about the farm assurance status of beef taken from ROI origin cattle but processed in, and then sold from, another EU member state.

“Here in NI we operate the Farm Quality Assurance Scheme which although a Red Tractor equivalent giving primary entry to the big hitters on the UK market is also exclusive to ourselves,” explained Mr Murnion.

“Around 94 per cent of NI stock qualifies for this, and attracts a bonus, because their beef is welcomed by mainland retailers who are anxious to demonstrate to consumers that the beef they sell is taken exclusively from UK origin cattle produced on certified assured farms.”

“So I would like to ask NIMEA, or anyone else who can provide an authoritative answer, whether or not the processing of such a huge proportion of non-FQAS, non-Red Tractor beef in NI factories each week in poses any danger to our important farm assurance system and might raise doubts about its authenticity,” Mr Murnion added?

For more information contact:
Oisin Murnion, chairman NBA Northern Ireland.
Tel: 02841 765082