Speaking at the IFA/Farmers Journal meeting on Supporting Sucklers in Balla Mart Co Mayo last night, IFA President Joe Healy said IFA is prioritising increased targeted direct supports of €200 per cow and a strong live export trade in order to support and maintain our quality suckler cow herd, which he said forms the backbone of Ireland’s €2.3bn beef and livestock sector.
Joe Healy said the €52m Beef Data and Genomics Programme (BDGP) secured by IFA was a positive start in terms of supporting the suckler cow herd and IFA is proposing that the level of direct support for the suckler cow herd should be increased to €200 per cow.
The IFA President called on Minister Creed to immediately reopen the BDGP scheme to allow new applicants in 2017, in line with the commitment given in Budget 2017. He said, based on the fall-off from the original applications in 2015, there is adequate funding to re-open the scheme at this stage.
Joe Healy said our 1 million head suckler cow herd is vital to the beef and livestock sectors, and provides the marketing image on which all our quality beef exports and access to the higher priced retail market outlets are secured.
He said investment in the suckler cow herd delivers real value for money in rural communities. A study for IFA by UCD Professor of Agricultural Economics Alan Renwick shows that each €1 of support invested in the beef sector, underpins over €4 in output in the Irish economy. At local level, the study showed that the cattle sector is embedded in the local economy, with 80% of cattle output sold in the area and over 90% of inputs sourced in the local area.
The IFA President also called on Agriculture Minister Michael Creed to prioritise live exports in 2017. He said with a forecast for an additional 100,000 head of cattle in 2017, a strong live export trade is vital for both price competition and market outlets.
In order to provide a vital boost to calf exports at this critical time, Joe Healy said IFA has proposed that the €8 per head charges on live exports be rescinded and the transport issues to Holland be resolved.
He said Turkey proved to be a vital live export market in 2016 and it was essential the boats recommenced sailing again early this year.
Joe Healy said IFA has requested Minister Creed undertake a diplomatic visit to Egypt to get the live export trade to this important market moving. He said there are major live export opportunities in Egypt, which Ireland is well placed to supply. In addition IFA has requested that the veterinary certificate is amended and more dedicated boats cleared.
The IFA President called for more resources in the Department of Agriculture on live exports. He also demanded that the retail and processor obstacles impeding the live trade to Northern Ireland and Great Britain be removed.
IFA National Livestock Chairman Angus Woods pointed out that across Europe, 24 of the 27 member states have used coupled payments to support their beef and livestock sectors, with the majority of funding focused on suckler cow payments. He said Cyprus, Lithuania and Ireland are the only exceptions, with no coupled supports for beef. 42% of all coupled support, amounting to €1.8bn has been targeted at beef by member states, with countries like France providing support of up to €178 per suckler cow.
Angus Woods said one of the biggest challenges on profitability in the suckler cow herd is the imposition of unfair price penalties by the processors on carcase weights. He said the best bred and most productive beef animals from the suckler herd are being unfairly penalised.
IFA analysis shows that the carcase weight penalties hit the suckler herd hardest, with over 25% of steers and 35% of bulls from suckler bred animals achieving carcase weights over 420kgs.
The IFA Livestock leader said the factories are using the easy option of applying price penalties on carcase weights, as opposing to using modern cutting methods and technology to find a better solution to heavier carcases from our best and most productive animals. He said, “Processors are using cutting methods from 50 years ago and claiming that they are unable to handle heavier carcases. They need to change and adopt new cutting techniques, which will allow the entire sector to develop and benefit from our more productive genetics”.