Speaking at the National Ploughing Championships, IFA President Eddie Downey said cattle prices are turning with factories having to pay 5c to 10c per kg above quotes prices to get stock this week. “With an increase of 27c/kg or €100 per head in finished cattle prices in our main export market in the UK since early July, there is major market potential for Irish cattle prices to increase substantially.”
Eddie Downey said prices are going to have to increase significantly to cover the costs of production and leave a margin for farmers. In addition, he said the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney has to come off the side-lines and get involved centre stage in resolving the issues around the difficulties in the beef sector with the factories. He said farmers simply cannot understand why the Minister is so unwilling to get involved and assist beef producers, who have the lowest incomes in farming.
Eddie Downey said factories have been forced to move the base price up to €3.65/€3.70/kg for both steers and heifers this week. Bull prices have also moved up to €3.70/kg for U grades and cow prices have also lifted by 5c to 10c per kg.
He said if the MII claim that the QPS remains at the heart of their payment system, then livestock farmers from this week should only be quoted one base price for their cattle, with the practice of different prices depending on weight, age and breed which has been common practice, immediately discontinued. He said the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney must insist that the factories honour this with farmers.
The IFA Livestock Chairman Henry Burns said with an additional 126,000 cattle already processed this year and an additional 30,000 animals exported live, the supply of finished cattle to meet increased market demand was tightening and factories agents were actively chasing cattle and offering farmers more to get supplies this week. He said the AIMS data is pointing to a reduction of 150,000 head in finished cattle supplies over the next year.
Henry Burns said the key issues that are causing severe financial hardship for livestock farmers are the application by factories of unacceptable and unjustifiable price and spec cuts for weight and age in the Quality Payment System (QPS). “These price penalties were not part of the original QPS and are being used as a tool to devalue livestock.”
On removing the roadblocks impeding the live export trade to Northern Ireland, Henry Burns said the beef branding concept being pushed by the IFA specifically for cattle born in the ROI and slaughtered in Northern Ireland is progressing, but needs the full backing of the Ministers for Agriculture both North and South. He said Tesco has confirmed to IFA they have now received the relevant documentation from the Northern Ireland authorities and DEFRA.
Henry Burns said it is obvious some commentators do not understand the concept of the label and are intentionally trying to derail what is a practical and legally compliant solution to ensuring our nearest and strongest beef market is available to Irish farmers. He said this label is specifically designed for cattle born in the ROI and exported to Northern Ireland for feeding/slaughter.
The IFA Livestock Chairman said farmers have reacted positively to the progression of this issue and in anticipation of the label being adopted have returned with confidence to the marts and are driving the trade. While secondary processors have accepted and are using the label it is crucial it is adopted by the major multiplies to maximise the outlets for cattle born in the ROI and exported live to Northern Ireland.
He said it is now incumbent on the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney and Northern Ireland Minister Michelle O Neill to ensure this issue is resolved and the label accepted to protect the current trade and facilitate the further development of this vital competition in the market place for beef cattle.