Beef talks conclude but no increase on prices
The Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed, has confirmed the conclusion of beef crisis talks between industry leaders, representatives of Meat Industry Ireland and the Beef Plan Movement.
At the conclusion of talks on August 20, IFA president Joe Healy said despite the agreement on a number of issues, farmers will still be disappointed at the lack of an increase in beef prices.
He said the fact that the talks took place on the precondition that price would not be discussed was ignoring the elephant in the room.
Mr Healy noted that with Brexit around 70 days away, strong EU and Government support is urgently required for beef farmers who are in the middle of a severe income crisis.
He said: “IFA made it very clear to Minister Creed additional EU and Government Brexit supports and direct aid for farmers are urgently required.”
On imports, Joe Healy said IFA highlighted the damage to the EU beef market and prices from substandard beef imports from outside the EU.
He said it was agreed that: “It should be ensured that imports which do not meet the same stringent standards as EU producers are banned."
He also confirmed that there was an agreement on the need for a fully funded CAP and to protect its share of the EU Budget, and ensure that the current level of direct payments to Irish beef farmers is protected.
In talks, it was agreed Bord Bia will develop a beef market price index model and that an independent grocery regulator is required.On the QPS (Quality Payment System), it was agreed Teagasc will review the price differentials on the grid in the short term and undertake a full review in the longer term.
In relation to the criteria for the 12c/kg in-spec bonus, the factories propose that aligned with the grid review by Teagasc (to be completed by end September) the industry commits to reduce the 70 days residency period on the last farm to 60 days and to broaden the in spec bonus criteria to cover O- conformation and 4 + fat class for steers and heifers.
The Department of Agriculture Food and the Marine (DAFM) agreed to introduce an appeal system for carcass classification in meat plants where there is manual grading only. IFA is seeking an appeals system in all meat plants. Farmers will also have access to carcass images on request.
On insurance charges at the factories, MII (Meat Industry Ireland) confirmed that farmers can opt out of paying. It was also agreed on the need for greater transparency all along the beef supply chain. An independent study of price composition along the supply chain will be commissioned by DAFM.
MII also agreed to provide a lairage weighing service on request which may incur a nominal charge to farmers. Finally, both parties also agreed that live exports are a critical part of the industry and that there should be a continued strategic focus on this area.
No agreement was made, however, on the issues surrounding movement and the 30-month age limitations.
Meat Industry Ireland (MII) said it was pleased that a wide ranging agreement had been reached.
"Progress has been made on a significant number of points and we welcome the agreement reached on Wednesday morning," they said. "It is recognised however that the current very weak beef market and the consequential knock-on impact on producer beef prices remains a major pressure point in the sector.
"MII believes that the best interests of the entire sector and for overall market returns for Irish beef are best achieved through a continued focus on the production of animals that meet the market specifications of key customers at home and in export markets.
"To deviate from producing animals that the marketplace requires would have been a retrograde step for the entire sector. As we face the mounting danger of a No-Deal Brexit, the reality is that we need to do everything possible to hold our position in the UK market."