As the Beef Plan protest enters its second week, MEP Flanagan has praised the resilience of those involved and called on all farmers “to hold their nerve, to stand together and maintain their peaceful protest”.
“This is more than a protest about beef prices; it is about protecting a way of life and rural areas against corporate greed,” he said.
The core demands of beef farmers - of a return from the marketplace that covers the cost of production plus a margin - is legitimate and obtainable, he argued.
“While Meat Industry Ireland (MMI) maintains that the current market situation cannot support higher prices, an examination of the facts does not bear this out.”
“It has long been the case that the farmer’s share of the final retail price has been falling,” he added.
He pointed out that in 1983, this stood at almost 40% to the farmer, with the processor and the retailer getting approximately 30% each. He noted that today, this stands at 21% to the farmer, 28% to the processor and 51% to the retailer.”
“There is money in beef production; farmers are just not getting their fair share of the final retail price.”
He stressed that this is backed up by data compiled by the UK Agricultural and Horticultural Development Board (AHDB). Their weekly reports show that retail prices for beef in the UK for the last week in July, ranged from Stg 5.12/Kg for standard mince to Stg 37.38/Kg for fillet steak. The average retail price for all cuts of beef for the week was 14.89/Kg.
In the same week, deadweight prices for farmers selling cattle to slaughter were Stg 3.33/Kg for R grade steers and heifers. “This clearly shows the massive margin and mark-up the processors and retailers retain for themselves.”
He said that there is scope for a greater share of the price the consumer pays to be returned to the farmer.
The other aspect that must be highlighted, said MEP Flanagan, is the increasing value of the ‘’fifth quarter’’ and “the fact that farmer gets nothing for it”.
“Beef tongue in Japan is traded for prices comparable to high-quality beef cuts in the US.”
He said that the introduction of new processing techniques has made it possible for fifth quarter products to be used in pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and household and industrial goods.
“Growing interest in and demand for the fifth quarter offers opportunities to increase total carcass value.”
“It is unacceptable that farmers receive nothing for this part of the animal.” the MEP added.
Concluding MEP Flanagan called on Minister Creed to intervene. “It is clear that there must be a major review of all aspects of the beef industry; the current centralised model of processing is not delivering for the primary produces.”
“The future must focus on creating quality brands at localised level, achieving PGI status for them, that can command a premium on the market.”
“This must be done while ensuring the primary producer shares in the added value that is generated.”