IFA President Joe Healy said there is a responsibility on Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed to release the names of the meat factory plants which have been fined for breaching regulations on carcase trim. “Farmers have long suspected that this practice was going on. Now, we find that 21 separate cases were uncovered this year with factories being fined a derisory amount of €200 for each offence. The Minister has to publish the list of the offenders immediately.”
Joe Healy said that the fine should be increased, immediately, to the maximum allowable under the legislation of €5,000. Factories who continue to break the rules should be prosecuted through the courts with custodial sentences for repeat offenders.
“The IFA Livestock Committee has campaigned hard to get Minister Creed to introduce enhanced supervision of the trimming process by Department of Agriculture AOs in factories.
“The time for slaps on the wrist has come and gone. We need a serious deterrent to ensure factories don’t rob farmers on the trim,” he said.
IFA National Livestock Chairman Angus Woods said the IFA has secured agreement that Agriculture Officers from the Department will now be supervising carcass trim on behalf of farmers in the meat plants on an ongoing constant basis. He said the new arrangements have already commenced on a pilot basis in some meat plants and will be rolled out in full to all meat plants in January 2019.
Angus Woods said the EU regulations on carcase trim is clear and states ‘no fat, muscle or other tissue may be removed from the carcass before weighing, classifying and marking, except for cases when veterinary requirements are applied’.
The National Livestock Chairman said IFA is also demanding that this positive move is extended to cover monitoring and closer controls on carcase classification, weights and the provision of an independent appeals system.
IFA President Joe Healy said cattle prices are rising with some farmers securing a base price of €3.80/kg for steers and €3.90/kg for heifers in recent days. He said with the strength of the UK cattle price and significant positive moves on the sterling exchange rate, it’s clear the factories can pay a lot more.
Joe Healy said increased demand for the Christmas trade is about to kick in and factories are trying to pin down numbers. He said farmers must demand and insist on a strong price increase as the market can pay it.
The IFA President called on the factories to immediately increase prices by another 10c/kg and pass back the improvements in the UK market prices and positive changes to sterling.
Joe Healy said the loss-making prices from the factories over recent weeks have inflicted serious damage on Irish livestock farmers and the beef sector.
The IFA President said UK cattle prices have increased consistently for the last eight weeks and are currently at £377/kg (R3 grade steer). This is equivalent to €4.51/kg incl. vat. He said the price gap between Irish and UK prices has now widened to well over €200 per head, which shows that the factories are not returning a fair market price to farmers and could pay a lot more.
IFA National Livestock Chairman Angus Woods cattle prices are rising and farmers must maximise any increases. He said farmers selling should not accept the quoted price and insist on much more.
Angus Woods accused the factories of taking advantage of their farmer suppliers over the summer/autumn. He said Minister Creed and the Government can no longer ignore the lack of competition in the trade. He added that the Minister needs to do a lot more to assist the live export trade and get exports moving again to Turkey and other international markets.
IFA has put specific proposals to Minister Creed and the Department of Agriculture to assist the live export trade, enable the trade to secure more contracts and drive competition and additional market outlets for livestock.
Addressing a large crowd of livestock farmers at the cattle price protest outside Kepak in Clonee today (Wed), IFA President Eddie Downey said there is real anger and frustration with all the meat factories over the way they have cut bull beef prices over the last two months, leaving farmers with major financial losses. Farmers also protested on the cattle price issue outside the Dawn Meats plant in Grannagh, Co Waterford and the ABP plant in Nenagh, Co Tipperary.