There has been a lack of meaningful progress which will truly benefit the beef sector following the conclusion of crunch talks between industry stakeholders, according to Michael Fitzmaurice TD.
“It is obviously disheartening for farmers to hear that there will be no immediate improvement in the price they receive from factories for their cattle.
“From reading the documents and proposed changes that have emerged from the talks in recent days, it appears that the fundamental issues facing the beef sector have still not been addressed.”
“But this cannot turn into a blame game. The reality of it is that if the status quo is allowed to continue, beef and suckler farmers won’t be able to survive – and Irish people will end up eating beef produced in other countries which isn’t as credible or traceable as what we producing here at the moment.”
The Roscommon-Galway representative expressed his frustration around the lack of movement regarding the 70-day residency rule and the 30-month rule in order to be eligible for the in-spec bonus.
Continuing, he said: “These rules and regulations are used as sticks to beat the farmers with.”
“The proposed reduction of the 70-day residency rule by 10 days is laughable – while the decision to maintain the 30-month rule will basically, mean farmers will be forced to continue to take whatever price they are offered when their animals are coming close to this limit.
“As it stands, farmers are price takers and it seems as if they are regularly taken advantage of.
“In my opinion, both processors and retailers alike have to come out and answer some difficult questions – rather than ducking for cover and hoping that this will all blow over in time.
He believes that processors also need to introduce a flat fee payment per animal for the fifth quarter – rather than “sticking to the line that the value of the fifth quarter is already incorporated into the overall price per kg”.
“There is little or no transparency of how money is divided between processors, retailers and farmers.”
Fitzmaurice is of the opinion that it is time for processors and retailers to clarify their stance on where they see the beef and suckler sector in the future.
“If this situation continues, there will be less and less factories in the country – because there simply won’t be enough cattle in the country to sustain their current numbers.
“This will also mean widespread job losses in the meat processing industry, where a 3-day week contract is already commonplace for some workers.”
“If processors cannot provide farmers with a sustainable price for their cattle, then why is it that this Government and Bord Bia are continuing to spend taxpayers’ money on promoting Irish beef abroad when the only ones that seem to be benefitting are the processors?”
Fitzmaurice added: “Retailers and other major purchasers of Irish beef also have serious questions to answer.
“How can they justify advertising and selling Irish beef to consumers, if the farmers who are producing this product are literally going broke?
“Are they content for the primary producer to keep receiving a hammering year-on-year? Are they happy that farmers are struggling to put food on the table for their families?
“It is common knowledge that farmers lost their shirts on cattle last year and continue to do so in 2019.”
‘Deep anger and frustration still evident’
Following the conclusion of the crunch beef talks, Fitzmaurice indicated that there is still deep anger and frustration evident among farmers.
“From talking to farmers throughout the course of the day, since the news broke that the talks had concluded, they seem to be very disillusioned.
“The hope was that these talks would unearth a clear pathway for the survival of the beef sector and that farmers would begin to receive a sustainable price for their cattle.
“However, farmers have been left disappointed and they feel that the key issues which needed to be addressed have been stifled.”
“From listening to farmers giving their analysis on the results of these talks, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them returning to picket lines across the country,” Fitzmaurice concluded.