An independent TD has called on the European Competition Commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, to investigate the Irish beef industry.
Deputy Michael Fitzmaurice contacted Commissioner Vestager earlier this week to highlight the “significant difference” in price farmers in Ireland are receiving for beef compared to their counterparts in other EU countries.
He said: “If you look at data from the Livestock Meat Commission for the week ending November 24th, you will see Ireland is languishing in 9th position when it comes to the average price received for an R3-grade heifer with just above 350c/kg.”
Meanwhile, he pointed out, farmers in Northern Ireland and Britain placed in fourth and fifth, respectfully in the leader board – receiving almost 40c/kg more for the same animal compared to Irish farmers.
“The Irish beef price would have to rise by almost 50c/kg to reach the top of the table or by 35c/kg just to break into the top six.”
“The game is up for meat factories in Ireland. Farmers have been taking a price well-below the cost of production for some time and the processors have been extremely slow to pass on price increases despite markets improving.”
“When you look at the price discrepancies between Ireland and other European countries, it is absolutely scandalous to see what is going.
'Price increases are imminent'
Fitzmaurice said that while it is positive that the Beef Taskforce met this week, the Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed needs to “step up to the mark and put pressure on factories to up their prices in line with other markets”.
“In the meantime, I have contacted Commissioner Vestager to investigate the apparent cartel behaviour that seems to be at play in the Irish beef industry."
Having already received an acknowledgement, Fitzmaurice said he will continue to liaise with the commissioner’s office to ensure that a thorough investigation is carried out.
“Farmers have suffered for far too long at the hands of processors and when it is time to pass on the benefits of improving markets, they keep the purse strings firmly tightened until it is impossible to deny any further that a price increase is warranted.”
“However, when markets are depressed, factories have no hesitation whatsoever in handing the cut directly back to the primary producer.!
“With the glut of cattle in the country reducing all the time, one would imagine that price increases are imminent – as well as long overdue.” the Deputy concluded.