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Coronavirus impact sees price of Ulster fry tumbles for second year in a row

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The price of an Ulster fry - a key economic indicator in Northern Ireland's agri-food sector - has fallen for the second year in a row. (Nick Ansell/PA)

The price of an Ulster fry - a key economic indicator in Northern Ireland's agri-food sector - has fallen for the second year in a row. (Nick Ansell/PA)

PA Archive/PA Images

The price of an Ulster fry - a key economic indicator in Northern Ireland's agri-food sector - has fallen for the second year in a row. (Nick Ansell/PA)

The price of an Ulster fry - a key economic indicator in Northern Ireland's agri-food sector - has fallen for the second year in a row.

Ulster Bank traditionally releases its Ulster Fry Index in the lead up to the Balmoral Show.

All but two key ingredients - mushrooms and tea (up 2.7% and 2%) - have dropped in price in the 12 months up to this March.

Tomatoes and margarine have seen the biggest drop, down 7.2% and 4.5% respectively.

More modest decreases have been seen in ingredients like back bacon (-1.7%), pork sausages (-0.6%), butter (-0.3%) and milk (-2.3%). All the prices are calculated using the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics Retail Prices Index.

Overall, the price of an Ulster fry is down by 1.2% since the previous year, although it has risen significantly over the long-term.

This year's price is still 5.9% higher than it was 10 years ago and up by 21% since the last recession in 2008.

Ulster Bank's chief economist, Richard Ramsey, said it was unlikely the price drop will continue for a third year, with Covid-19 placing extra pressure on farmers and the food supply chain.

"The Ulster Bank Ulster Fry Index is intended to be a way to engage consumers in economics and to help communicate what's happening with indicators like inflation," he said.

"It is also a way of highlighting the important role of our agri-food sector, which brings us our bacon, eggs, butter and much more, and to create understanding of how the economics of the agri-food sector work."

He continued: "As the food supply chain grapples with the impact of Covid-19, it faces increased costs to do so, including adapting working practices.

"There is inevitability that these increased costs will find their way into the prices of the goods."

A main concern was that many farmers, particularly beef and dairy, are seeing returns below the cost of production.

"The Covid-19 situation has brought home to many the crucial importance of having a robust food supply chain, and the vital role of our local food producers, processors and suppliers in ensuring we have the items we need and want, and where and when we need them," he said.

"As consumers, we perhaps need to understand that the current situation of farmers receiving below the cost of production isn't sustainable long term, and taking all of the factors into consideration, it is likely that the Ulster Fry Index will only go one way in the year ahead."

The statement follows calls from a union to introduce mass testing across poultry and meat industry sites after the death of a worker from coronavirus.

Luciana Viviana da Silva (58) had worked at Moy Park's Dungannon site, and Unite has demanded the Executive take urgent action to increase safety.

Last month, the Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots also warned the agri-food sector could be facing 10,000 job losses without extra support due to expected price drops in key areas like milk, beef and lamb.

Belfast Telegraph