LMC Raise Concerns With Minister

Areas of concern for the Northern Ireland beef and sheepmeat industry were highlighted by a delegation from the board of The Livestock and Meat Commission (LMC) when they met with David Cairns, parliamentary undersecretary of state at the Northern Ir

eland office.

Speaking after the meeting Pamela Kane, who led the delegation, said the minister had responded positively on a number of the matters raised.

She said: "We highlighted the fundamental unprofitability at farm level of beef and sheepmeat production following the decoupling of subsidies. We stressed the urgent need for government and the industry to work together to develop a response to the emerging new market realities.

"We voiced the considerable concern which LMC and the industry feel at the lack of a level playing field between local production and imported products.

"In particular, the fact that the Food Standards Agency is imposing rigorous standards on food produced within the UK while the European Commission, having responsibility for standards of imported food, seems unable or unwilling to require the same standards."

She added the LMC urged the minister to make a contribution to the Competition Commission enquiry into the UK grocery market.

"The Northern Ireland red meat industry has a high dependence on the major multiple retailers. We voiced the aspiration to have a transparent trading environment where a fair return could be delivered for all of the participants in the chain," Kane said.

David Rutledge, chief executive of the LMC, said: "While a number of the matters are clearly not directly under the control of our minister, we were pleased that he undertook to consider how he could exercise influence positively on behalf of Northern Ireland, and we were particularly pleased at the positive response on our efforts to develop a forward plan for the new decoupled era."