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

Press Release - Contiued intake of nomad cattle from ROI undermines NI beef cattle prices.......

7th May 2013

Region: Northern Ireland

Processors and retailers agree that Northern Ireland’s beef industry can profit hugely from the horsemeat scandal if purchasing focusses exclusively on high provenance, UK-only, beef cattle that are backed by full farm assurance – and sales promotion of their beef emphasises these qualifications.

But ex-farm prices in the Province still fall 35p a deadweight kilo, or £100-£120 a head, short of the mainland average which is rapidly approaching 400p.

“And this is because, despite the damage being done, the delivery of non-FQAS, nomad, prime cattle from the Republic of Ireland (ROI) for slaughter in Northern Ireland continues,” explained the NBA’s Northern Ireland chairman, Oisin Murnion.

“In mid-April the total trucked in directly off ROI farms so far this year was 5,880 head. This may be 20 per cent less than the same time last year but as far as the future of Northern Ireland’s beef industry is concerned it is still 5,880 too many because nomads that would otherwise be consigned to NI should be processed within their own country of origin instead.”

The NBA says it is significant that the majority of NI’s processors agree that huge positive progress could be made if NI’s beef industry developed its own, origin based brand, on the back of FQAS qualification – but fear that this important development is being dragged back by the relentless stream of nomads from the ROI still being killed within its borders.

“Last autumn 1,237 head, perhaps the equivalent of 10-12 per cent of the total of NI prime cattle on offer, were trucked in over a single week and these deliveries diluted and confused the provenance and identity of every beef animal that was processed in NI at the time in NI,” said Mr Murnion

“But damage levels have mounted since retailers, worried about the impact of the horsemeat scandal, made it clear that they are looking for cattle of explicit UK origin because only their beef can be sold under the cross-UK, Red Tractor, farm assurance label that is not just attracting more consumers – but encouraging them to pay more for reassurance too.”

“The Association has no doubt that the slaughter of nomads from the ROI has forced down the value of every beef animal on every farm in Northern Ireland and is doing its best to make sure that similar, unnecessary, pressure is not inflicted on NI beef farmers, or its £1 billion a year beef industry, over the rest of 2013 too.”

It is also struggling to understand why processors handling cattle originating in the ROI, but slaughtered in NI, are prepared to forfeit the increasingly valuable, full country of origin status, generated by Bord Bia’s  BQAS (Beef Quality Assurance Scheme) because the beef is processed in another EU country.

“The delivery of nomads into NI not only devalues our own beef but devalues the cattle that are trucked in as well so it surely makes more sense if all ROI cattle are allowed to preserve their full provenance and value by being processed within their own country of origin instead,” Mr Murnion added.

“We are also puzzled about the ultimate destination of beef, which at a time when retailers are universally saying they want shorter, single-country, supply chains is being, quite unnecessarily, directed through a supply route involving two EU member states instead.”

“It seems to us that the only parties to benefit from processing nomads from the ROI within Northern Ireland are the processing companies themselves.”

For more information contact:
Oisin Murnion, NBA Northern Ireland chairman.  Tel: 0773 963 2048