Speaking at the launch of the AIB Beef Report this evening, IFA President Eddie Downey said IFA’s main message is very clear: improving profitability at farm level will be key to a strong future for the livestock sector.
Eddie Downey said, “We have made this the core message of our submission and work on the Government’s new Agri-Strategy 2025. Increased profitability at farm level and increased price premium for sustainably-produced Irish food are the two clear targets IFA has set down”.
He said the overarching target for beef must be to improve the viability of cattle enterprises, through a combination of strong viable beef prices, solid direct payment support, increased efficiency and productivity across the sector and co-operation within the sector to optimise the supply balance.
On the Beef Forum, Eddie Downey said that IFA is determined that further progress must be made on increasing the age limit to 36 months, the further development of contracts, and other issues including carcase trim, price transparency and producer organisations.
The new BTAP scheme should target an increase in the number of participating beef farmers from 5,000 to 15,000. It is critically important that Teagasc provides strong, independent research and advisory programmes on beef, which are not influenced by external, commercial bodies. Beef research and advisory services must deliver outcomes that can be easily accessed by farmers and incorporated into their farm enterprises.
The IFA President said farmers will play their part through increasing efficiency and productivity, but it is essential that other stakeholders in the agri-food industry take responsibility for delivering measures that will underpin the long-term income sustainability of primary food production. This must include addressing the imbalances of power in the food supply chain through regulation of trading practices and greater price transparency.
The opening of the US beef market and the progress made on China are positive developments for the beef sector. “The TTIP trade negotiations with the US and the potential for increased imports place the EU beef sector and particularly Ireland, as a major exporter, in a very challenging position. IFA will continue to robustly defend the beef sector based on protecting the European production base and insisting on equivalence of standards”.
Eddie Downey said livestock farming is capital intensive, requiring ongoing investment on-farm to improve efficiency and adapt to new technologies. “Competitive funding from the banks is essential for the sector. IFA will continue to work closely with AIB to ensure that adequate funding is available to meet the needs of farmers and the sector.”
This survey shows that over one third of livestock farmers are planning to increase stock numbers and expand. 43% of farmers are working with an advisor/consultant to improve their businesses. Nine out of 10 beef finishers are in the Bord Bia Quality Assurance scheme. Discussion groups and learning from others is considered very valuable by many respondents.
Concluding, Eddie Downey said these are encouraging and positive messages from livestock farmers working in a sector where the income challenge remains acute. IFA will continue to campaign and work hard both at home and in Brussels to drive delivery on all of the key issues from strong prices and market returns to securing a policy framework that maximises direct supports.