Task force to tackle NI meat concern

The Northern Ireland Red Meat Industry Task Force is to begin work developing a long-term strategy for the region's beef and sheepmeat industry.

The Task Force, facilitated by The Livestock and Meat Commission (LMC), includes the Department of Agriculture & Rural Development (DARD), the Ulster Farmers' Union (UFU), the National Beef Association (NBA) and the Northern Ireland Meat Exporters' Association (NIMEA).

A consultancy firm is now set to be appointed to undertake a comprehensive investigation of all aspects of the Northern Ireland red meat chain to determine how a profitable and sustainable industry can be achieved following decoupling of subsidies. The research will include all aspects of production, processing and marketing and a comprehensive involvement across all of the industry interests.

Supporting the launch of the initiative, minister for agriculture, David Cairns, said: "I am pleased to have been able to lend support to this initiative which aims to find a route to future viability for this important part of the local agricultural industry.

"In Northern Ireland the agri-food sector accounts for almost 5% of the economy and 8% of total employment. It is crucial that a workable strategy is developed that will allow industry and Government to work together to establish a long-term viability for beef and sheep production in Northern Ireland."

Chairman of LMC, Owen Brennan, launching the initiative, said: "The appointment of a consultancy firm to the Task Force marks a step change in our endeavours to get a better understanding of the red meat industry in Northern Ireland and how we can all work together for the future. This industry can only prosper if it makes financial sense to continue in business right across the supply chain. On the basis of the current lack of profitability at farm level, it is likely that the work which we are embarking upon will result in recommendations for significant change and while we cannot predict the outcome of the work, we need to find solutions that move us from the unsustainability of our current setup."