Northern Irish lamb imports deeply concerning, says UFU

Northern Irish lamb imports deeply concerning, says UFU

The Department of Agriculture’s (DARD) figures on the volume of lamb imported through Belfast port in 2015 are deeply concerning, says Ulster Farmers’ Union deputy president, Ivor Ferguson.

Ferguson noted in particular the worrying volume of lamb imported from New Zealand and Australia.

“Nearly 2500 tonnes of southern hemisphere lamb was imported. We believe this was mostly premium cuts such as loin chops and legs,” Ferguson said.

This poses a threat to the local industry, which becomes evident when converted into lamb numbers, he added. “It represents a quarter of the carcase weight of lamb slaughtered in Northern Ireland last year – equivalent to around 120,000 lambs at a carcase weight of 21 kg.”

Moreover, the DARD figures show that over 80% of lamb imported came in between April and October. “This is deeply concerning for local farmers who saw their income drop considerably in 2015. While we know the euro affects sheep prices, the news that big volumes of cheap lamb are imported will further dent farmers’ confidence in the supply chain,” Ferguson said, adding that the timing of the imports was clearly designed to undermine local prices.

“By bringing in the bulk of imports during the peak season here, this was a deliberate effort to increase supplies and so put pressure on local lamb prices. This data confirms our view that the EU import quotas that New Zealand and Australia have for lamb need to be revised by the Commission,” Ferguson commented, before concluding: “They must ensure that imports do not undermine domestic production within the EU.”

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