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

Press Release - Ill-wind of horsemeat scandal blows good for NI origin beef stock

1st March 2013

Region: Northern Ireland

Ill-wind of horsemeat scandal blows good for NI origin beef stock.

The National Beef Association (NBA) is delighted that the focus by consumers on origin and provenance that has been created by the horsemeat scandal is restricting the number of nomad cattle crossing the border with the ROI and underlined the value of FQAS qualification for Northern Ireland stock.

“Each of these is an important development that will help to secure the long term future of beef production in the Province - and its wider beef industry must therefore be thankful that even an ill-wind like organized meat sector deception on a cross-EU basis can do some long term good,” explained by the NBA’s Northern Ireland chairman, Oisin Murnion.
Last year the NBA was angry that the regular import by three of NI’s factories of over a thousand cattle a week from the ROI for immediate slaughter was being used to depress the value of finished cattle coming off NI farms.

And it was working hard to persuade guilty processors to give up trucking in nomads of non-NI origin from the South so buyer attention inside NI could focus on high provenance stock finished within NI itself.

“This would have given the beef sector in the Province a better chance to build up an NI brand, improve NI’s reputation for its beef, and at the same time make future supplies more secure because the improved cattle prices would give farmers a better chance of covering their costs,” said Mr Murnion.
“Unfortunately the Association’s plans were resisted but we could be saved from having to make more strenuous efforts in 2013 because the horsemeat scandal, and the strong consumer demand for proven country of origin credentials it has triggered, has already reduced the importation of ROI cattle for immediate slaughter and could soon stop it in its tracks.”

“Right now, this minute, our factories are at last concentrating much harder on beef cattle that were born and reared in the Province and just as importantly they are focusing even more heavily on farm assured NI cattle that carry the full FQAS qualification.”
According to the NBA this means that non-FQAS stock is being discounted by £70 a head while influential feeders, who in the past would buy stores out of the ROI to feed for 90 days and secure FQAS qualification, are concentrating on the purchase of NI-origin cattle too.
“They are at Northern Ireland’s marts, not those in the ROI, because they have picked up a very firm message that the market for nomad cattle from the ROI is drying up, 100 per cent NI origin is in favour, and they, quite naturally, want to protect their business by finishing stock that is most attractive to NI buyers,” said Mr Murnion.
“This sentiment is being mirrored by many processors who even last autumn were unhappy at the structural damage caused by the importation of nomads for immediate slaughter and this week told the Association in very strong terms that these cattle should never again come in.”

“So it is not a surprise that NI cattle prices are at last benefiting from a long delayed surge. Part of this week’s market strength is the result of urgent purchasing by those processing companies which have to replace horsemeat tainted stocks with high qualification beef.”

“However we would not be seeing factories offering 8p-10p above base if demand was spread across cattle from both NI and the ROI instead of concentrating much harder on stock from NI itself,” Mr Murnion added.

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