NI store producers want to side-step low prices

MOMENTUM is growing in Northern Ireland to bolster the live store cattle trade with mainland Britain.

Unhappy with low slaughter cattle prices, many Northern Ireland store producers say they would be better off pushing cattle into auction marts in Northern England and Scotland.

Better still, they could form marketing groups to develop a farm-to farm trade between NI and Britain.

At the same time, they say, it would send a message to factories in Ireland that if they want to safeguard future slaughter throughput, they must ease the downward pressure on finished cattle values.

Chairman of the National Beef Association Northern Ireland, Oisin Murnion, said there would be a worthwhile margin for Northern Ireland store men, despite shipping costs.

“The ideal way to develop this trade would be for groups of farmers to get together and sit down with finishers across the Irish Sea, agree a pricing structure and organise the transport and shipping.”

It would not be difficult to find a reliable and trustworthy ‘fieldsman’ to select the stores, he told Farmers Guardian.

Mr Murnion said he was dismayed by the 252p/kg/dw average paid locally for R4 cattle compared with around 285p in Northern England and about 294p in Scotland.

“It is obvious the factories has the Northern Ireland finisher in a vice-like grip and ways must be found to break this financial hold before beef cattle production across the Province expires,” he added.

He also pointed out breeders in the Republic had spotted the advantages of sidestepping their factories and more than 5,000 stores had been shipped into Britain this year.

“However, they face trading difficulties and ultimate slaughter value problems, triggered by the non-transfer of farm assurance and not being of British origin.”

“Fortunately none of these pose problems for FQAS cattle from Northern Ireland, because they were born in the UK, and their beef also qualifies for the premium British label preferred by mainland supermarkets which means they would retain full slaughter value too.”

Irish Farmers Association Michael Doran is reportsed in the Irish Farmers Journal as saying English feedlot buyers are increasingly showing interest in Irish stores. But the article does suggest some Irish-owned plants in England will not kill beef sourced in Ireland.

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