IFA President John Bryan said there was intense farmer anger on the ground against the latest round of factory beef price cuts and the way the severe weather difficulties had been used against farmers to undermine confidence in the cattle trade.
An emergency meeting of the IFA Executive Council and National Livestock Committee, which was also attended by a delegation from the Ulster Farmers’ Union, was held in Portlaoise this week. After the meeting, John Bryan said the clear message was “the factories have unfairly exploited the weather situation to pull prices and open up an unprecedented and unacceptable 60c/kg price gap with the UK. Farmers cannot tolerate this kind of blatant abuse and damage to confidence in the livestock trade”.
John Bryan said an important meeting will take place between IFA and the meat factory bosses next Monday. He said this will be a crucial test of whether the factories are prepared to take seriously their responsibility to the livestock trade this Autumn and rebuild confidence in the future of the beef sector.
John Bryan said the IFA meeting also made a strong call on the Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney, to travel to North Africa and the Middle East to re-open and secure the important live export trade to key markets such as Libya, Egypt and the Lebanon. He said these markets are vital to price competition and outlets for stock.
The IFA President said that farmers were under severe financial pressure after the worst summer weather in living memory with fodder in short supply and massive price hikes in feed, fertiliser and diesel resulting in serious cash flow problems.
IFA National Livestock Chairman, Henry Burns, said the factory price cuts were totally unjustified at a time when cattle supplies in Ireland were extremely tight and market returns in both the UK and Europe were very strong. The meeting heard from Bord Bia that the Irish beef sector was in a unique position to benefit from:
Tighter cattle supplies in the Irish market with Autumn supplies lower than last year;
A rising import requirement in our main UK market, where prices are equivalent to €4.50/€4.60/kg;
The devaluation of the Euro since 2011 which gives a 10% higher return from the UK market;
A strong European market with prices of €4.00/kg and a strong market outlook.
Henry Burns said at a time when the entire Irish beef and livestock sector could benefit from these positive market factors, the factories have made a grab for short term gains instead of building confidence in the trade in line with the Food Harvest 2020 targets.
Henry Burns called on Minister Coveney to put it up to the factories to take responsibility for the future of the sector seriously.