Speaking at today’s meeting of the Beef Forum in Dublin, IFA National Livestock Committee Chairman Henry Burns said the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney must stand up for farmers and make it abundantly clear to the factories that there can be no price cuts or dual pricing under the Quality Payment System for weight, age, breed or Quality Assurance. He said the QPS cannot work with weight limits.
He said there is growing anger among cattle farmers over the way some factories have started to manipulate cattle price cuts on weight and age, contrary to what was agreed in the QPS and at the Beef Forum chaired by the Minister Coveney. “The current situation cannot continue and Minister Coveney has to sort this out with the factories at this meeting.”
Henry Burns said Minister Coveney must tackle the lack of price competition in the beef sector. He said “The current Irish/UK cattle price gap at €1.16/kg has widened by 329% from an average of 27c/kg over the 10-year period 2004-2013. In addition, the labelling issues preventing market access for Irish cattle to our nearest markets in Northern Ireland and Britain must be resolved”. He said farmers have real concerns on competition and over dominance in the meat processing and rendering sector, and this has come to the fore again in recent days with the ABP investment in Slaney Foods and new speculation regarding Dunbia. He said IFA was in contact with the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission on the Slaney issue last week.
The IFA Livestock leader said beef prices need to increase from their current loss-making levels. Teagasc figures show beef finishers off grass need a price in the order of €4.00/kg just to cover costs and finishers out of the shed need prices in the order of €4.50/kg.
Henry Burns said the IFA is strongly opposed to the imposition of carcase weight limits, which will have a very negative impact on the Irish beef sector and especially the suckler cow herd and quality cattle. It would also undermine the QPS. Average carcase weights in Ireland are below those in the UK, Italy, France and Germany as per EU Commission data.
Henry Burns said farmers are very concerned over the inadequate controls on carcase trim and classification in meat plants. He said Minister Coveney needs to move immediately to instruct Department Agricultural Officers (AOs) to be present on the kill line and monitor carcase trim and classification. He said this issue must be advanced at today’s Forum meeting.