Speaking at the IFA AGM in Dublin this week, IFA National Livestock Chairman Henry Burns told the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney that he must insist that the Beef Forum delivers for farmers and it is the Minister’s responsibility as Chairman to ensure that the outcomes agreed are properly implemented.
The next Beef Forum is set to take place on February 4th. Minister Coveney told the IFA AGM he will continue to chair the Forum and will be taking a tough line on implementation of the agreement reached at the last meeting in November, at the time of the IFA factory protests.
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.
Minister Coveney said a strong and active live trade is essential for the beef trade and to keep the factories honest. He said he will fully facilitate the live trade and sees it as a priority for the sector. The Minister told the IFA AGM that farmers need to be treated in fairer and a more transparent way as regards beef market returns.
Henry Burns told Minister Coveney that 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. He said the age limit must be lifted from 30 to 36 months as set down in the forum. In addition, he said the Department of Agriculture must increase the level of checks on carcase trim in each meat plan as agreed at the Forum and the AIMS system for counting the number of farm residencies must be changed. He said at the next forum meeting, Minister Coveney must challenge the factories on their less than honest effort to introduce a worthwhile incentive on steers and heifers from quality assurance farms.
Minister Coveney told the IFA AGM that he believes 2015 will be a much better year for beef with better market returns and tighter supplies. He said the opening of the US beef market will be very significant for Ireland. Henry Burns said supplies are forecast to be back by up to 150,000 head this year. “This will tilt the market balance in favour of the farmer and drive on prices. Winter finishers need to see prices continue to improve.”
Henry Burns said a major IFA campaign on suckler support secured an increase in the Beef Genomic Scheme to €100 per head for the first 10 cows and €80 per head on the remainder, worth €52m. He said IFA is very clear that all sucklers applied for must be paid on. The IFA Livestock leader said strong direct supports are essential to maintain the national suckler herd and IFA will push for a higher payment per cow in the order of €200.