IFA President Eddie Downey said livestock farmers are extremely angry and frustrated over the way their incomes have been decimated this year by price and specification cuts imposed by retailers and factories. He said farmers feel betrayed by the unacceptable behaviour and lack of corporate responsibility on the part of the powerful retailers and meat factories to their farmer suppliers.
Speaking at a farmer protest outside Tesco in Naas Co Kildare Eddie Downey warned all of the major retailers including Super Valu, Dunnes, Aldi and Lidl, and the factories that the anger and frustration of farmers is at boiling point and the unjustified price and specification cuts, which are severely damaging farmers and the Irish beef sector, must be reversed.
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The IFA President said Teagasc has confirmed that livestock farmers’ incomes were down by 13% to 22% last year, at extremely low levels from €9,469 to €15,595.
He said “With beef prices in our main markets in the UK and across the EU stable and recovering, the current attack on prices led by the factories cannot be justified.
The IFA President said its time the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney, Bord Bia and the meat processors fought back against these specification cuts, which are extremely damaging to the Irish beef sector and our top quality grass based beef production systems.
Eddie Downey said the Minister Coveney must assert his authority with the factories and demand that they respect the agreement they entered into with farmers on the price grid under the Quality Payment System. He said the Minister must insist that the factories remove the unfair specifications cuts on dual pricing, weights, age and breeds that were never part of the QPS.
IFA National Livestock Chairman Henry Burns said it is totally unacceptable the way Minister Coveney has stood back on the beef crisis. He said the vacuum left by the Minister has allowed the factories and supermarkets run amok on beef farmers imposing loss making price and specification cuts and severely damaging incomes and confidence.
Henry Burns said Minister Coveney must assert the authority of his office and stand up for farmers and act now. He said “Minister Coveney is the regulator for the beef industry and provides each factory with a licence to operate every week.”
The livestock leader said farmers expect Minister Coveney to take a much more hands-on approach in tackling the issues that are negatively impacting on their incomes. “The Minister must ensure that there is strong competition and transparency in the beef sector. Cattle prices must fairly reflect market returns. We need a strong live export trade to keep a balance in supplies and support viable prices.”
Eddie Downey said contracts from the factories at viable price level are essential and especially for the higher cost winter finishing and bull beef systems.
Eddie Downey said IFA has been working hard with processors in Northern Ireland to try and resolve the problems impeding the live trade to the North. He said “We worked to put forward branding solutions and these have now been approved by the Department of Agriculture in the North.” He added Ministers Simon Coveney and Michelle O’Neill cannot allow the supermarkets reject these labels which are mandatory under EU regulations.
In addition, Eddie Downey said Minister Coveney must deliver the CAP direct payments early this year on October 16th and ensure full funding in Budget to provide for a GLAS payment for 30,000 farmers.
The IFA President said restoring confidence at farm level is critical and again called on the factories and their retail clients to reverse the unjustified price cuts. Eddie Downey said Minister Coveney must stand up for farmers and his Beef Forum must deliver on the key issues now.
Listen to IFA President Eddie Downey and National Livestock Chairman Henry Burns speak at the protest in Naas
IFA President, Eddie Downey:
National Livestock Chairman, Henry Burns: