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IFA Grain Committee Chairman Mark Browne has called on farmers who buy compound feed rations to insist on Irish grains. Some feed merchants are now producing rations which contain little or no Irish grain and have replaced it with maize grain from non-EU sources.

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Addressing a seminar organised by IFA on Producer Organisations today, IFA President Joe Healy said producer groups have shown their ability to organise farmers very well and negotiate additional top-up bonus prices with processors. However, the meat plants have found a way of undermining this by using very low quoted prices every week.

Joe Healy said, “We are also aware of numerous situations where processors and agents have used every trick in the book to pick off members of producer groups to see if they can divide and break up groups”.

In the livestock and beef sector, both the present Minister Michael Creed and his predecessor Minister Coveney have spoken a lot about the opportunity for beef farmers to set up producer organisations. In theory, this is positive. But the reality is the dominant retailers and meat processors hold all the cards.

Producer Organisations need a lot more support and particularly financial support from the Department of Agriculture. €1,500 to set up a group and €1,500 for legal advice is not sufficient. Groups need ongoing support on an annual basis, especially in the early years to keep going, if they have any chance of being able to stand up to the dominance of the powerful retailers and processors.

The food supply chain is characterised by a concentration of buying power in the hands of a small number of powerful retail groups. In Ireland alone, the top three of SuperValu, Dunnes and Tesco have 67% of retail food sales. Two multinational discounters Aldi and Lidl have another 21.5% share of the market between them.

On the beef processing side, the big three groups of ABP, Dawn and Kepak have 65% of the total market between them.

“As farmers, this is the power of the retail and processing sectors we are up against. IFA wants to support producer organisations, where farmers wish to set up groups. We have registered with the Department of Agriculture as an approved facilitator. We are available to help and assist any group of farmer members wishing to set up a producer organisation in any sector,” he said.

Over the years, the IFA has played a key leadership role in the formation of up to 60 farmer co-operatives in the livestock marts business. We were also key to the establishment of groups and co-operatives in the dairy sector.

IFA was instrumental in the establishment of up to 20 producer groups in the sheep area. Our farmer members were to the fore in the setting up of beef producer groups over the years in Laois, Monaghan, Cork, Longford and Louth.

IFA has also been to the fore across other areas like horticulture, mushrooms and other areas in assisting farmers in forming groups. Family farms are been forced out through globalisation and the constant race to the bottom on prices. Farmers cannot survive the downward price pressure being pushed back against them.

In Ireland, the establishment of co-ops by farmers have proven to be a major success and has delivered in spades for farmers. This is particularly the case in dairy processing and also in livestock marts. It’s not the case in beef, sheep or pig meat processing.

As Chairman of the COPA group on the food chain, I have worked hard at EU level, with Commissioner Hogan in driving change on unfair trading practices and increased transparency across the food chain. We have made some progress, but a lot more needs to be done.

€60,000 has been raised by Mayo IFA in conjunction with Aurivo and McHale Farm Machinery. The funding will go to Cancer Care West for the purchase of a bus that will provide a service for Mayo cancer patients travelling to Galway for treatment.

Pictured at the fundraising draw which took place on Friday March 1st in the Halfway House, Islandeady:

Back Left to Right: Pat Duffy Chairman Aurivo, Cathal Hughes Mayo Man of the Year, Martin Gilvarry Chairman Mayo IFA, Padraic Joyce Regional Chairman IFA, Richard Flaherty CEO Cancer Care West, John Kennedy Purchasing Manager McHale Farm Machinery, Roy O’Brien IFA Regional Executive.

Front Left to right: John Donnelly Former IFA President and Board Member of Cancer Care West, Maria Ryan Mayo IFA County Secretary, IFA President Joe Healy, Michael Ring TD Minister for Community and Rural Affairs and Sean Clarke Mayo IFA County Treasurer.

IFA is this morning in SuperValu in Cashel, Co Tipperary after members discovered product labelled as ‘Argentinian strip loin steak’ for sale on the shop shelf.

IFA President Joe Healy said, “While SuperValu is claiming that the Argentinian in the title refers to the sauce, IFA is insisting that Musgraves, SuperValu’s parent company they make an immediate public statement on the matter”.

“Beef farmers are going through an incredibly difficult time and the very least we would expect is that all Irish stores would stock only Irish meat,” he said.

South Tipperary IFA Chair Erica O’Keeffe said that local farmers were shocked to find beef labelled like this in a store in Tipperary.

“There is no Bord Bia Quality Mark on the product or any other information about the source of the beef,” she said.

Speaking at this morning’s All-Island Civic Dialogue on Brexit in Dublin Castle, IFA President Joe Healy reinforced the devastating impact that a no-deal Brexit would have on Ireland’s agricultural sector. He outlined the crisis that is already underway in the beef sector and restated his call for mitigation measures to be put in place as a matter of urgency.

Joe Healy, IFA President said “Farmers are already feeling the brunt of Brexit. Uncertainty and the drop in the value of sterling have contributed to a crisis in our beef and pig sector in particular. Hoping that there will a safety net at the bottom of the cliff is not enough. We are already in freefall. We need support now.”

Earlier this week IFA representatives from across the country assembled in Dublin and lobbied TD and Senators from their constituencies on the beef crisis and Brexit.

The IFA presented a detailed set of proposals including;

An EU Brexit Emergency Support Package involving a comprehensive set of market supports and direct aid for farmers from the EU Commission
EU state aid limitations on members states must be set-aside
Challenge the meat factories to immediately increase prices and prioritise the young bull kill.
Increase factory controls on trim, classification and weights.
Strong support for the live export trade to double numbers in 2019 and ensure that no further restrictions are imposed on the trade
Reward quality suckler stock with a significant price premium
Increased funding for suckler to €200 per cow
Insist on an increase in the CAP budget
Continue to resist a damaging Mercosur trade deal
Climate change recommendations which focus on the Teagasc roadmap with no carbon-based production quota

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