Speaking at the AIB Tullamore Show, IFA President Eddie Downey said the difficulties at farm level require urgent and decisive action to restore confidence in our beef and livestock sector, which is worth in excess of €2bn to the Irish economy. Eddie Downey said livestock farmers cannot survive another year of severe price and income cuts.
Eddie Downey 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.
The IFA President said the Minister cannot allow the factories to continue to ignore him and undermine confidence in the livestock sector. He said “Minister Coveney must assert his authority with the factories and 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.
In addition, Eddie Downey said Minister Coveney must remove the roadblocks impeding the important live export trade to Northern Ireland so that competition and the single market are allowed to freely operate. He said “IFA has been working hard with processors in Northern Ireland and branding solutions have been put forward which can resolve this issue. Minister Coveney needs to strongly support these solutions, as time is running out before the autumn trade intensifies.”
In addition, the IFA President 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.
IFA National Livestock Chairman Henry Burns said moves by the meat factories to try and impose further cattle price cuts this week 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 this week of intimidating and bullying farmers by threating more price cuts if they don’t sell, using the 30 month age as the main lever.
Following a series of meetings with the main banks, IFA President Eddie Downey 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.
National Livestock Chairman 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.”