SDLP South Down Margaret Ritchie has said the UK government must be seeking ways to ensure that hard pressed beef and sheep producers in Northern Ireland are not receiving low farm gates prices compared to British counterparts.
Ms Ritchie raised the issue during the recent debate in the House of Commons regarding dairy prices.
She said the grocery ombudsman must be given the authority to act and added: “In the recent debate surrounding dairy prices I also raised the issue of the need for fair prices for farmers in the sheep and beef industry here and the price disparity between Northern Ireland and Britain.
“Prices here are much lower than GB and there clearly needs to be work done to ensure that better collaboration between producers, processors, retailers and consumers takes place, because it’s the consumers who are having to pay a hefty price for the produce in the supermarkets. Those in the middle are making much more from this and the producer and consumer at either ends are getting squeezed.
“We need to be exploring what can be done at government to bring about a better solution for those supplying the industry and those buying the produce. There needs to be an effort to bring everybody around the table in terms of collaborative governance in relation to the powers of the adjudicator, the grocery ombudsman.
“These efforts can only be effective if the grocery ombudsman has the teeth and the authority to act, and deliver for hard-pressed producers and consumers.”