The Ulster Farmers’ Union believes that an agreement on cattle residencies can be reached which would mean that Auction marts would show the number of residencies any animal they are selling has undergone while most of the main processors would agree not to impose penalties on any cattle which have over four residencies until the beginning of 2015.
Speaking after meeting with representatives of the LMC, the NI Livestock Auctioneers Association (NILAA) and the NI Meat Exporters Association (NIMEA), UFU President Ian Marshall said; “When the auctioneers approached us with a proposal to resolve the impasse on cattle residencies we were very keen to facilitate discussions on the matter. Farmers have found themselves caught in the middle of this row and the current situation, where there is a lack of full information available on the status of cattle, leaves both buyer and seller at a significant disadvantage.”
Ian Marshall went on; “While we understand the concerns that the livestock auctioneers have around a potential restriction of their trade, we also understand the position of the main processors. Whether we like it or not, large retailers have set out and have been operating to a particular specification for several years and the processors need to be in a position to deliver what their clients are asking for. We are, however, pleased that both parties are now thinking about stepping back from their positions and are considering an agreement which, although imperfect in some ways, will facilitate the regularisation of trade for some months in order to get some of the impacted cattle out of the system. This will also give farmers and producers a period of time to adjust their farming practices to accommodate the stricter specifications.”
Pat O’Rourke, LMC Chairman, speaking after the meeting said, “I was encouraged that all parties involved were prepared to show leadership around this difficult issue with the auctioneers being prepared to show the number of residencies in their markets and meat processors being prepared to work sympathetically with their suppliers to minimise the level of penalties which are imposed on cattle with over four residencies on a transitional basis.”
Ian Marshall concluded, “However, we have not given up on questioning the rationale behind these retailer specifications and following discussions with a representative of the retailers yesterday (7th August), we will be submitting a paper on our proposals to resolve some of these contentious issues in the next few weeks.”