Minister Coveney Must Take a Tough Line on Implementation of Beef Forum Outcomes – IFA

Following the latest Beef Forum meeting, IFA President Eddie Downey said the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney must take a tough line and insist that the outcomes are fully implemented. “Minister Coveney said he is determined that the Forum outcomes will be implemented.”

Eddie Downey said progress has been made across a number of issues on specifications, and prices are moving in the right direction, but there is a lot more work to be done.

Eddie Downey said IFA raised the following key issues at the Forum meeting:

• Movement on the age limit from 30 to 36 months;
• Quality Assurance;
• Market price transparency;
• Bull beef production;
• Movement and residency issues;
• Carcase trim
• Live exports; and,
• Contracts.

Minister Coveney told the Forum that Bord Bia and the factories are making progress on the market price transparency index. He said that Bord Bia, Teagasc and ICBF are working on the age and weight issues. It was agreed that the Department of Agriculture will make the necessary changes to the AIMS database to clarify any confusion on counting the number of farm residencies.

IFA National Livestock Chairman Henry Burns said serious lessons must be learned from last year where the factories and retailers took full advantage of the 150,000 head increase in cattle numbers and played havoc with prices and specifications. He said a strong live export trade is crucial to maximise price competition and to avoid a repeat of the marketing problems that damaged livestock farmers’ incomes in 2014.

Henry Burns said the Beef Forum must deliver on full market price transparency, more competition and that the factories must fairly pass back market returns in cattle prices back to farmers. “The age limit must be lifted from 30 to 36 months as set down in the forum. The Department of Agriculture must increase the level of checks on carcase trim in each meat plan as agreed at the Forum.”

There was a full presentation from Bord Bia on market prospects and bull beef production together with Teagasc. Minister Coveney concluded that cattle supplies will be back by 120,000 – 150,000 head in 2015, exchanges rates are much more positive and prices are increasing.

On bulls, it was agreed to set up a sub-committee to look at various production systems and specifications. Teagasc presented data showing that the most efficient farmers need beef prices in the range of €4.00 – €4.50/kg across the different bull beef systems. Teagasc made it very clear that under 16-month bull beef based on male HF calves from the dairy herd is uneconomic.

Eddie Downey and Henry Burns are part of an IFA delegation currently visiting Washington DC, following the opening of the US market to Irish beef exports.

Eddie Downey said the opening of the US market is a positive development and its significance will be judged by farmers securing improved beef prices from the marketplace in 2015.

He said the major increase in US beef prices, up by €1/kg in the last year and now at €5.00-€5.15/kg, must present a real opportunity for Irish grass-based beef exports. He said Minister Coveney has indicated that the US market could take up to 20,000t of Irish beef in 2015 and this would be substantial.

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