A number of farm organisations have reacted to the inaugural meeting of the Beef Market Taskforce.
Beef Plan Movement (BPM)
The Beef Plan Movement welcomed the sitting of the Beef Market Taskforce, as a positive step in the right direction.
Despite deadlines for agreed actions on the Beef Sector Agreement not being met, these actions will be executed over the next number of weeks to ensure continuity of the workings of the taskforce, a statement from the organisation outlined.
One such action, the statement read, will be the completion of the grid review.
“One of the main concerns raised at the meeting was lifting base price, which MII indicated they had no control over.”
“However, they did indicate that they would expect a price rise in the short-term.”
“Significant time was dedicated by all farm organisations on the issue of price and an upward movement of price/kg, as it was felt that beef farming is at a critical juncture.” the statement added.
Reference was made to the recently launched beef price index, as a benchmark for the price paid for beef.
“The price paid to our EU counterparts is significantly more and this was outlined to MII as reason for an immediate response from meat processors to lift base price.”
“Regarding live weights and supply contracts, MII maintained that farmers are not engaging with their members on these issues.”
“Upper weight limits were addressed, and Beef Plan has encouraged MII to instruct their members to publish the upper weight limits for every meat plant, so that farmers have a clear understanding which plant suits their requirements for slaughter weights.”
In regard to live exports, the view was strongly expressed among farm organisations, that the live export market needs to be further developed to drive competition in the market.
“QPS requirements are to be independently examined by the DAFM and tenders are awaited with a closing date of December 6th for same.”
“In the interim, the task force will invite retailers to attend task force sittings in order to establish their requirements for customers.”
“A date for the next task force sitting is being decided on. It is envisaged that this will take place before Christmas.” the statement concluded.
ICSA president Edmond Phelan has said momentum is shifting towards a beef price increase in the wake of the meeting.
“The pressure on processors to move on price is unrelenting and justifiably so.” he stressed.
“Farmers, who are not under pressure because of age limits, should be holding out for a price rise as it is unlikely this pressure can be withstood.”
“Prices are way back from where they should be and there is no justification for it. Irish prices are back on UK prices and back on EU prices and are now even on a par with Brazilian prices.”
He outlined that Bord Bia’s Beef Price index “clearly shows” UK and EU prices are on an upward curve whereas Irish prices have “flatlined at best”.
“There is also a massive Chinese demand for animal protein as a consequence of African Swine Fever (ASF).”
“We know global demand is pushing prices in a positive direction and Irish farmers will not sit back and accept crumbs from the table.”
New BEAM scheme & live exports
The farm organisation also called for the introduction of a new BEAM scheme. “Lessons must be learned from the first incarnation of this scheme and we must ensure the entirety of the funds allocated are channelled to where they need to go in future.”
Mr Phelan stressed the importance of the live export market and said, “No roadblocks should be allowed to hinder this vital outlet to farmers.”
The IFA President Joe Healy said IFA made an immediate and significant cattle price increase the priority issue at the meeting.
"The meat factories representative accepted the facts, verified by the Bord Bia beef price index, that market prices have increased, and cattle prices should increase in the short-term."
"IFA demanded an immediate and significant price increase and highlighted the anger of farmers that factories had held back on justified price increases over recent weeks."
"The taskforce accepted that there is a significant gap between Irish prices and those in our export markets."
He said it was also agreed that market reports and beef and cattle prices will be part of the terms of reference of the taskforce.
“On a request from the IFA, it was agreed that the Department of Agriculture will carry out an analysis on the impact of weight and age restrictions on the new in-spec bonuses since September 15th.”
“It was pointed out that while the bonuses were implemented, this was not reflected in a price increase because of these restrictions.”
Healy said that the organisation also raised “specific” issues around maximising live exports, progress on the beef price index, independent reports on the in-spec bonuses and the total value of the animal in the chain, retailers attending the taskforce, mechanical classification and the need for an independent appeals system.
Having all relevant parties at the table is the only way to move forward in making any headway on the beef crisis, according to Macra na Feirme’s national president, Thomas Duffy.
“We are strong advocates for our membership and those members have told us time and again that this taskforce needs to meet and discuss the issues that are important to them.”
Based on Bord Bia’s Beef Price Index, there is, Duffy outlined, a clear need for a base price increase and for industry to deliver.
“The comments from industry during the talks around the loss of value to Irish beef from weak Sterling are no longer an excuse [that] factories can use to keep prices low.”
“We have seen significant increases in the UK steer price in the last month. Irish price needs to follow suit with these increases.” Duffy concluded.
Additional statements to follow…