Minister Must Take Firm Action on Beef Prices to Restore Confidence at Farm Level

Speaking at the Beef Forum in Dublin Castle this week, IFA President Eddie Downey told the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney that the lack of progress is very frustrating for the country’s 100,000 livestock farmers. He said the continuing deterioration on beef prices was taking Ireland’s €2bn beef and livestock sector into a very dangerous negative spiral. He told Minister Coveney he must take charge with firm action to restore confidence at farm level.

Eddie Downey told the Minister that the way the factories had torn up the Quality Payment System since last Autumn using dual pricing and unfair specifications to undermine prices and market returns was totally unacceptable. He told Minister Coveney that this fundamental issue must be corrected without any further delay, if his Beef Forum initiative is to have any credibility with farmers. Michael Dowling made it clear at the meeting that the QPS should operate as originally agreed and Eddie Downey said it is now up to the Minister to ensure this happens.

The IFA President said the latest Teagasc Farm Survey data, showing livestock farm incomes ranging from €10,000 to €15,000, confirmed the deep income crisis in the livestock sector and the need for urgent action to address the situation.

On the Dowling recommendations, Eddie Downey said that as well making it clear that the QPS system should operate as originally agreed, he has also recommended an in spec bonus system to reflect the increase costs for winter finishers and contracts for all bull beef production.

Michael Dowling recommended that an agreed system of price benchmarking should be worked out which would allow a comparison with prices across our main markets. He said live exports are important as an alternative market outlet and for providing a balancing factor in the market.

Eddie Downey said IFA pointed out to the meeting that based on Bord Bia data, carcase weights in Ireland were not out of line with weights in our main export market in the UK and in general were lower than those in our main European markets. For steers the average weight in Ireland is 349kgs, while it is 361kg in the UK and 385kg in France. For young bulls the average weight in Ireland is 357kg, while it is 339 in the UK, 394kg in France, 384kg in Germany and 367kg in Italy.

The IFA President said he was very disappointed with the lack of progress on resolving the problem denying Irish farmers access to the live export market to Northern Ireland and Great Britain. The Minister said despite several meetings with Northern Ireland Minister Michelle O Neill he had not progressed the issue and Michael Dowling outlined “little hope “of a change in the near future. Eddie Downey said with the bigger Autumn mart sales approaching, the Minister must make progress on this issue.

Eddie Downey told Minister Coveney it is imperative the Taoiseach Enda Kenny on behalf of the Government immediately intervenes at the highest levels in Brussels to stop any exchange of offers, currently being considered by the EU Commission President Barroso in the Mercosur trade negotiations with Brazil and other South American states.

Eddie Downey said there is real fear that President Barossa and Trade Commissioner De Gucht are determined to make a substantial EU offer on agriculture and market access in the Mercosur negotiations during the lull period between the European elections and the establishment of the new Parliament. He said “There is a very real threat that an attempt will be made to bypass the system and urgent intervention is required at the highest political level.”

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