IFA National Livestock Chairman Brendan Golden said IFA is driving an intensive lobbying campaign with TDs and MEPs to get the Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed and the EU Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski to take urgent action to address the collapse in beef prices as a result of the COVID-19 emergency and the income crisis on livestock farms.
Brendan Golden said Minister Creed and Commissioner Wojciechowski cannot continue to ignore the beef crisis in Ireland. IFA has put forward specific proposals for APS (Aids to Private Storage) market support and direct payment support for beef farmers.
At national level, IFA has called on Minister Creed to immediately mobilise and make available to beef farmers the unspent €24m from BEAM funds in the form of a direct payment to farmers selling cattle, pending a more comprehensive EU package. “The Minister can do this immediately. The EU Commission has specifically instructed Member States to re-allocate unused funds.”
IFA is also demanding that the EU should suspend non-EU beef imports, which amounted to 318,500t in 2019. “Up to 80% of these imports are coming from Mercosur countries like Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay and are made up of steak cuts destined for the EU food service market. These outlets are closed because of COVID-19 restrictions and non-EU imports should be suspended.”
“Beef farmers are incurring major income losses with prices down 25c to 30c/kg in the last three to four weeks, well over €100/animal. Prices are back 40c/kg or €150 per head on 2015 (pre-Brexit) levels”.
The Irish beef sector is export oriented, with a very small domestic market. 30% of the value of carcases is made up of steak cuts and 60% of Irish steaks are sold to the food service sector. The closure of these outlets due to COVID19 is extremely damaging and disproportionately affecting Irish beef prices and farm incomes.