IFA President Eddie Downey and IFA National Livestock Chairman Henry Burns will lead a delegation at a meeting with the meat factories on Friday on market prices and specification issues, under the chairmanship of former Dept of Agriculture General Secretary Michael Dowling.
Eddie Downey said the situation was extremely tense and farmers across the country are preparing to escalate this dispute with a 48-hour protest next week.
He said, “Real and substantial progress must be made on Friday. Farmers have endured a horrendous year of loss-making cattle prices and unacceptable specification cuts. The meat factory bosses must accept responsibility for their disastrous handling of the relationship with their farmer suppliers this year. Farmer patience with the factories has run out and the industry must address the issues now.”
Eddie Downey said Bord Bia confirmed to the Beef Forum that cattle prices in the UK market have improved by 30c/kg in recent months and this must be reflected in returns to Irish farmers. He said cattle prices in Ireland have improved by 10c/kg over the last week, but this is nowhere near enough to reflect the strong returns in our main export market in the UK.
He said IFA is determined that the increases in market returns are passed back to farmers, and that all of the specification issues, including the QPS, are comprehensively addressed. “Through the Beef Forum, Minister Coveney must put in place the policy and structures that will prevent any recurrence of the issues that have led to the collapse of trust between farmers and factories this year”. He said the Minister made it abundantly clear at the last Beef Forum that ‘the primary focus of the Forum was to ensure that farmers get a fair reflection of market returns’.
As well as the price issues, Henry Burns said IFA will be insisting at Friday’s meeting that the following issues are comprehensively addressed:
– Re-instatement of the Quality Payment System without dual base price cuts for breeds, weights or age;
– No carcase weight limits as part of QPS;
– Increase in the age limit from 30 months to 36 months;
– All animals from a QA farm should receive a bonus payment;
– The number of farm residencies should be increased;
– More contracts and premium payments at viable levels for winter finishers and bull beef producers;
– Full and accurate price transparency in the supply chain, with reporting of wholesale and retail prices, as well as producer prices;
– Clear remittance documents and transparent purchase terms;
The Beef Forum scheduled for next Wednesday must also address the following key issues:
– Re-assurance for farmers with an independent Department inspector in each meat plant to oversee carcase trim, weights and classification, and appeals;
– Removal of the roadblocks impeding the live trade to Northern Ireland & Great Britain;
– Strong support for an active live export trade to instil greater competition in the beef trade;
– Increased support for the suckler cow sector, which is under severe income pressure;
– Strong defence of the Irish and EU beef sector against the threat posed by increased imports under the EU/TTIP and Mercosur trade deals.