IFA National Livestock Chairman Henry Burns said moves by the meat factories to try and impose further cattle price cuts are totally unjustified as prices in our main market in the UK have stabilised in recent weeks and remain well ahead of Irish levels.
Henry Burns accused the factories of a new breach of faith with farmers in trying to impose new and deeper specification cuts on age in a move to force out cattle. He said the factories are back to their old tricks of intimidating and bullying farmers by threating more price cuts if they don’t sell, using the 30 month age as the main lever.
The IFA Livestock leader said the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney cannot allow the factories to continue to ignore him and undermine confidence in the livestock sector. He said “Minister Coveney must step up to the mark and assert his authority with the factories. He must insist that they respect the agreement they entered into with farmers on the price grid under the Quality Payment System”. He must insist the factories remove the unfair specifications cuts on dual pricing, weights, age and breeds that were never part of the QPS.”
Henry Burns said “The responsibility lies squarely with the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney to address the key challenges for livestock farmers. We expect him to take a much more hands on approach in tackling the issues that are negatively impacting on farm incomes”. He said after concerted pressure from IFA the Minister conceded to the establishment of a Beef Forum and it’s now time for real progress and results.
In addition, the IFA Livestock Leader said it is Minister Coveney’s job to ensure that there is strong competition and transparency in the beef sector and insist that prices fairly reflect market returns. He said the Minister needs to do a lot more to restore confidence and the Beef Forum has to deliver on the key issues around restoring prices and incomes, the QPS price grid, specifications, contracts and live exports.
The IFA National Livestock Committee Chairman said very good progress has being made in resolving the problems impeding the live export trade to Northern Ireland. He said following work by IFA with processors in Northern Ireland, proposals were put to the Department of Agriculture in the North and Northern Minister Michelle O Neill has now given approval for an Irish brand to be used on cattle exported from the south, fattened in Northern Ireland and subsequently slaughtered in the North.
Henry Burns said this is a significant development and should pave the way for cattle exported from the south to feeders in the North and slaughtered in the North to be branded and sold as Irish, removing any confusion on the origin. He said this beef will be labelled in full compliance with EU regulations specifying that the animals were born in Ireland, reared in the UK and slaughtered in the UK.
Henry Burns said IFA has been working on this issue for a number of months and this is a significant breakthrough in the work to get a solution. He said the processing sector in Northern Ireland are confident that the next step in this process should be lead to a resolution of the issue, which in turn will see an increase in live exports to Northern Ireland.
Following a series of meetings with the main banks, Henry Burns said IFA has secured a commitment from the banks that they will support farmers during the current difficulties and provide the same level of working capital in the form of stocking loans and overdraft facilities in 2014, as in previous years. Eddie Downey said this is an important positive message to livestock farmers as they enter the autumn sales and should help to restore confidence to the sector.
Henry Burns said IFA recently met with the ICOS Marts to discuss credit facilities and other issues. On the security of payment for the sale of livestock the IFA message to farmers is very clear. “Sell your livestock in your local licenced mart.”