IFA National Livestock Chairman Henry Burns has said cattle farmers are very frustrated that cattle prices have not moved on to reflect the higher returns from our main export market in the UK and the strength of Sterling.
The IFA National Livestock Chairman said that, based on cattle prices in our main export market in the UK, where R3 steers are making £3.52/kg, the equivalent of €5.25/kg incl vat, there is real potential for Irish cattle prices to rise. He said the price gap that has opened up with Irish prices of €1.28/kg is unsustainable.
He called on Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney to immediately intervene through the Beef Forum to deal with the threats on farmers from factories on key issues around weights and specifications. He said some of the propaganda from the meat plants around weight limits are totally unacceptable and would severely damage the Irish beef sector. In addition, a weight limit would completely undermine the Quality Payment System price grid. He said the Minister needs to ensure that the agreements made at the Forum are implemented.
Henry Burns said market access is a key issue for the Forum and with an additional 130,000 cattle in the 0-12 month age bracket, it is clear the Minister needs to secure real and substantially increased market outlets in 2016/2017 to avoid a repeat of the price, marketing and income problems of 2014. He said real access to the US and China is essential and particularly access for manufacturing beef to the US. In addition, there are a number of other countries where access is required.
The IFA Livestock Chairman said that as well as the importance of securing real access to additional beef markets, access to live cattle markets are equally as important in terms of cattle price competition and additional outlets. He said there are very good opportunities available for live cattle exports to Egypt, Libya, the Lebanon and Turkey as well as Morocco and Algeria. It is vital that action is taken on securing exports to all of these live cattle markets so as to encourage the trade and maximised exports.
Henry Burns said the ongoing problems with labelling still remains unresolved and continues to negatively impact on both beef and live cattle exports to Northern Ireland, Great Britain and to some EU countries. He said Minister Coveney must guarantee that the EU single market operates properly and is not prevented from doing so.
The IFA Livestock Chairman said farmers are very concerned over the inadequate controls in place in meat plants on carcase trim and classification. He said IFA has consistently raised these issues with the Department and farmers are very disappointed, following the clear commitment made in the Forum, that there has not been more progress made with the decision to have DAFM AOs present on the killing line to monitor trim and classification as agreed.
Henry Burns said the Minister must immediately implement what was agreed on movements. He said it was agreed that the Department will adjust its AIM system to harmonise the system of counting 4 farm residencies for the QPS in-spec bonus.
Henry Burns said there is a lot of frustration that more progress has not being made with the agreed position on increasing the age from 30 to 36 months. In addition, the Forum needs to discuss other important issues such as contracts, price transparency, POs, Quality Assurance and the suckler herd.