Ian Stevenson, chief executive, Livestock & Meat Commission

Ian Stevenson, chief executive, Livestock & Meat Commission

A New Year message from LMC CEO, Ian Stevenson

‘As we head into January this is traditionally the month in which consumers tighten their purse strings after the expense of Christmas and they also tend to think more about their diet and exercise after the usual festive eating and drinking. The message from LMC at this time of year is don’t take the backward step of cutting back on your beef and lamb intake as, when it is consumed regularly as part of a healthy balanced diet, your weight and health is easier managed. Our high quality nutritious and delicious beef and lamb is produced on family farms in Northern Ireland operating to independently assured standards of animal welfare, environmental protection and food safety and should be enjoyed all year round.

‘Brexit dominated industry discussions throughout 2019 and the uncertainty that stemmed from a series of negotiation deadlines, threats of a no deal exit from the EU and political upheaval in the UK all added to negative sentiment in consumer markets. Supply chain revenues took a significant dip as meat market prices in the UK and EU came under pressure and global prices for hides and skins also fell to the floor. Red meat also attracted a huge amount of unfair and unsubstantiated criticism from a range of ill-informed commentators and self interest groups.

‘Despite this backdrop, the UK red meat industry and its levy bodies made good progress in 2019 in telling the true and positive story about our livestock and meat industry’s sustainability, contribution to climate change mitigation and its ability to help feed a growing global population’s demand for dietary protein. Looking to the main areas in the world where demand is growing it is encouraging that Chinese and UK authorities agreed a protocol in 2019 for UK beef exports to China and our industry looks forward to servicing this important market in 2020 and beyond.

‘As an organisation which provides services to beef and sheep farmers and processors LMC is acutely aware of the importance of the beef and lamb industry to the Northern Ireland economy, rural society and the countryside which we all enjoy. 2020 is a milestone year when big decisions will be taken by UK Government around the future relationship of the UK with the EU, future UK trade policy with countries outside the EU and the future shape and funding of domestic agriculture policy in the UK. Ideally we will have local Executive Ministers from Northern Ireland who can play an active role in influencing those policies and reflecting the economic and societal interests of Northern Ireland to Westminster decision makers.

‘We are immensely proud of our beef and lamb industry in Northern Ireland. We have some of the finest beef and lamb in the world and as we look set to leave the EU at the end of January 2020 our producers and processors must continue to be supported by UK government to develop productive, profitable and progressive supply chains. In a business environment where profit margins are very low or in many cases negative our farmers and processors need free and frictionless access to markets for raw materials and for their end products and we cannot be left facing into a no-trade deal Brexit at the end of 2020.

‘LMC will continue to educate our young people in Northern Ireland schools on the importance of including beef and lamb in the diet. We will also promote the quality, versatility and values of Northern Ireland farm quality assured beef and lamb at home and abroad. All stakeholders with an interest in the UK agri-food industry must work more collaboratively and strategically than perhaps they have ever done in the past if the post-Brexit era is to be one that works successfully for our industry and delivers positive outcomes for society’.