Speaking ahead of the IFA livestock meeting in Castlerea tonight, IFA President Eddie Downey said Minister Simon Coveney will have to remain centrally involved to ensure genuine progress is made in resolving the price and specification cuts that have so badly damaged confidence in the beef sector this year. Earlier, livestock farmers held their latest protest at the Lidl supermarket in the town.
Eddie Downey said farmers want to know what Meat Industry Ireland, which represents meat processors, meant when it told the Minister it is willing to explore flexibilities. “IFA will engage to address the real issues, but it is essential the Minister remains fully engaged to ensure a positive outcome and fair play for farmers.”
The IFA President said Teagasc has confirmed that livestock farmers’ incomes are down by 13%-22% in the last year, ranging from €9,469 to €15,595. “With beef prices in our main markets in the UK and across Europe now stabilised and recovering, it’s time the processors started to secure prices from the market place that restored viability and confidence to the sector.”
Eddie Downey said the Minister will have to make it clear to processors that their agreement with farmer suppliers has to be fully honoured through the price grid, or Quality Payment System. Specification cuts on dual pricing, weights and age penalties, which were not part of the original QPS, have to be removed.
He said, “Specifications that target the suckler cow herd and Ireland’s grass-based production systems are extremely damaging. Weight limits that penalise our quality cattle from the suckler herd are a non-runner. Greater availability of contracts for livestock farmers is essential. With the Budget just over a month away, Minister Coveney has to deliver funding for a GLAS scheme, which will be an important element of income for suckler farmers”.
In addition, Eddie Downey said there has to be clear transparency on market returns and more competition in the trade. He said a strong live export trade is essential and Minister Coveney must secure an effective solution to the roadblocks impeding the live trade to Northern Ireland, which is important for competition for farmers and the marts trade in the west of Ireland.
The IFA President said that the Association’s work on live exports is having a major impact on supplies, with 150,000 fewer cattle available next year and a further reduction of 100,000 in 2016. The overhang of over 100,000 extra cattle/bulls is now gone out of the system and with market balance being restored, higher cattle prices will have to be secured by processors from the market place. The future of the livestock sector is in the balance and the Minister will have live up to his recent commitment to deliver for farm families in the sector.