Northern Ireland Assembly
Minister Must Take Action to Ensure Local Beef Farmers are Prioritised
The Assembly’s Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee (AERA) yesterday called on the Minister to do all that he can to ensure that local beef farmers are prioritised by both supermarkets and processors.
The Committee’s concerns arise from recent reports that the ABP Food Group, which supplies meat products to Sainsbury’s and ASDA, had, at the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, been distributing Polish beef in lieu of local beef produce to supplement its existing supply arrangements to supermarkets.
The Committee Chairperson, Declan McAleer MLA yesterday said:
“While ABP has indicated that the supply of Polish beef was a temporary solution to meet the recent unprecedented needs of the consumer, the Committee cannot fathom why the local processing sector was not in a position to meet this demand.
“The COVID-19 crisis is placing our local beef farmers under tremendous financial pressure, with many already facing hardship and an uncertain future.
It is crucial that the Minister recognises this, and does everything within his power to ensure that local farmers are prioritised and that the necessary systems are in place so that local processors can supply local produce.”
Mr McAleer continued:
“The Committee is further concerned that for the farmer, prices are collapsing, despite what appears to be a very high and unprecedented demand for produce.
“We are calling on the Minister directly to outline the actions he is taking to provide assistance to our local beef farmers, and to ensure that as the most vital step in the food supply chain, they are fully supported to meet the demands of this crisis.”
Mr McAleer concluded:
“The Committee would also take this opportunity to underline to wholesale distributors and to consumers, the importance of buying local produce and supporting local retailers. The beef our local farmers produce is of the finest quality, we must all do our part to support and help them in sustaining their livelihoods during these uncertain and unprecedented times”.
The Committee has also written to the supermarkets to voice its disappointment and concern and to ask that they ensure a similar situation does not arise in the future.
Mr Declan McAleer MLA (Chairperson)
Mr Philip McGuigan MLA (Deputy Chairperson)
Ms Clare Bailey MLA
Mrs Rosemary Barton MLA
Mr John Blair MLA
Mr Maurice Bradley MLA
Mr Pat Catney MLA
Mr Harry Harvey MLA
Mr William Irwin MLA
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