Addressing a major protest of beef farmers outside the Department of Agriculture today (Tues), IFA President Eddie Downey said Minister Simon Coveney’s Food Harvest 2020 plan is failing beef farmers, who face losses up to €175m this year if beef prices are not restored.
Eddie Downey, who will also address the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture this afternoon, challenged the Minister to take action on a number of critical issues for the sector. He said, “The Minister must reject the factory cuts and specification changes and act immediately to address labelling and live export issues that are curtailing competition and the movement of stock to our key markets, including Northern Ireland and the UK. The sector needs stability and confidence to be restored without any further delay”.
“At the moment, winter finishers and particularly bull beef finishers are in the eye of the storm. Some bull beef finishers are at their wits end, unable to get cattle killed. When they do sell them, they are facing price cuts of 50c/kg plus, ranging from €200 to €300 per head. These farmers are facing very real and very substantial financial losses this spring.”
“Compared to this time last year, steer and heifers are down €70 to €80 /head. Bull beef and cow prices are down €180 to €200/head. If these beef prices are not restored, the losses to the Irish beef sector will be in the order of €175m per annum. This would totally derail the Food Harvest 2020 plan”, Eddie Downey said.
The Minister must get Teagasc, Bord Bia, ICBF, the factories and most importantly the IFA representing farmers around the table and revisit the Food Harvest beef activation plans. For example, under-16 month bull beef production doesn’t work in a grass based system and tight carcase weights will leave our quality Continental cross suckler cows uneconomical. At a minimum, farmers are entitled to have clear and stable market signals and a production system that is viable.
IFA National Livestock Chairman Henry Burns said IFA has worked hard to secure a new ferry route for live cattle to the UK. Minister Coveney must act to remove the artificial blockages preventing the expansion of the live trade to the UK, including addressing the labelling difficulties. This is a market access issue, which is preventing the proper operation of the EU single market. It has also hit the important store trade with Northern Ireland, affecting the mart trade and suckler farmers all across the West and Midlands.
Henry Burns said, “IFA is calling on the Minister and Bord Bia to go to the UK and meet with the supermarket bosses and their Government and agency counterparts to resolve these difficulties. Doing nothing on this is no longer acceptable. The large price gap between Irish and UK cattle prices must be closed. It is not acceptable that Irish cattle are being blocked out of part of the single EU market”.
The Minister must also become an advocate of the live export trade to European and other markets; by doing so he will improve price competition and increase market outlets.
Henry Burns said, “Farmers are very clear that a strong live export trade for Friesian calves to Spain and Holland, weanlings to Continental EU markets and stores to North Africa are essential to keep a competitive balance in the trade. As things stand, the more Friesian calves that go out the better