The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) says beef farmers are rightly frustrated and angry about falling prices. The decline in farmgate beef prices is putting the industry at risk.

USU beef and lamb chair Sam Chesney has warned that beef prices must strengthen, as farmers finishing cattle continue to suffer heavy losses.

He says prices for R-3 steers have dropped from £3.46/kg (€4.16/kg) this time last year to £3.36/kg (€4.04/kg), stating that neither of these prices offer a sound foundation for a sustainable beef industry.

Price pressure

“Producers have faced downward price pressure in recent months. It is now at a point where some are seriously considering the future of their family-run businesses.

"Poor prices are undermining incomes at a time of year when costs are high. Winter finishing rations have increased from around £2.10/t (€2.53) to £2.25/t (€3.06) and fuel and fertiliser prices still remain high. Farmers simply cannot afford to live with beef prices below the cost of production,” said Chesney.

According to the UFU, the beef industry has lost over £36m from November 2018 to October 2019 and with poor prices and rising production costs, this is getting worse.

Chesney said all producers must negotiate hard for better prices.

“Every farmer needs to know their own cost of production if they are to make changes on their farms. But for now, they need to book cattle in advance and ensure they shop around for the best deal,” he said.

One of the key focuses for the UFU beef and lamb committee will be on future support as Northern Ireland now has some flexibility to design its own future domestic agriculture policy.

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