The Ulster Farmers’ Union has expressed its continued frustration and disappointment at the lack of transparency and communication between meat plants and their suppliers following reports that some meat plants in Northern Ireland are planning to remove the bonus structure and supposedly incorporate the bonus in the base price.

UFU Beef and Lamb Chairman Robert Davidson has said that if these reports are true essentially the meat plants will be taking money off ‘gold box’ grading cattle and putting it on the other grades which will effectively reduce the drive for quality animals.

Mr Davidson said; “I am truly baffled by these latest reports. Surely it flies in the face of the meat plants ‘drive for quality cattle’ argument, which has been preached to us so often. And the fact that this information hasn’t been communicated directly to suppliers just highlights the outstanding issue of poor communication and lack of transparency between processors and primary producers. If the meat plants were to operate in a more open way, where the concerns and livelihoods of primary producers were taken seriously they would find they could have a completely different relationship with producers. Frankly, this whole ‘cloak and dagger’ way of operating is just getting old.”

“Despite the uncertainty around how the reformed CAP will be implemented here in Northern Ireland, farmers are still looking to the future. If there isn’t a market at home for their red meat, then they will be looking for markets elsewhere or some may even think about making changes to their entire business operation.”

These latest reports of changes to beef pricing structure come on the back of the meat plants proposals to penalise for cattle with more than four farm residencies.

Robert Davidson continued; “Many producers were blindsided by the meat plants plans to introduce penalties for cattle with more than four farm residencies. And here we are again in a situation where farmers are being kept in the dark and then hit unexpectedly with serious changes that will have an impact on their entire business. We have continued to try and work with the meat plants and NIMEA on this issue but it appears our calls for a better way of working have fallen on deaf ears.”