Speaking at a highly fraught meeting of the Irish Farmers Association in Navan last night, IFA president Eddie Downey said livestock farmers cannot survive with unviable beef prices and severe specification cuts.
He said “With beef prices in our main markets in the UK and across the EU stable and recovering, the current attack on prices by the factories cannot be justified. The anger and frustration of farmers over the way their incomes have been decimated is very real and farmers feel betrayed by the unacceptable behaviour of retailers and processors this year.”
The suggestion of further retailer specifications cuts was rejected outright by the IFA president. He said its time the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney, Bord Bia and the meat processors fought back against these specification cuts, which are extremely damaging to the Irish beef sector and our top quality grass based beef production systems.
The Slane farmer told the meeting that the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney must deliver on his commitment to beef farmers and the Beef Forum must start delivering some results for farmers.
Eddie Downey said the minister must assert his authority with the factories and demand that they respect the agreement they entered into with farmers on the price grid under the Quality Payment System.” He said the minister must insist that the factories remove the unfair specifications cuts on dual pricing, weights, age and breeds that were never part of the QPS.
The IFA leader said farmers expect Minister Coveney to take a much more hands-on approach in tackling the issues that are negatively impacting on their incomes.
“The minister must ensure that there is strong competition and transparency in the beef sector. Cattle prices must fairly reflect market returns. We need a strong live export trade to keep a balance in supplies and support viable prices.”
Eddie Downey said contracts from the factories at viable price level are essential and especially for the higher cost winter finishing and bull beef systems.
Eddie Downey said IFA has been working hard with processors in Northern Ireland to try and resolve the problems impeding the live trade to the North. He said “We worked to put forward branding solutions and these have now been approved by the Department of Agriculture in the North.” He added Ministers Simon Coveney and Michelle O’Neill cannot allow the supermarkets reject these labels which are mandatory under EU regulations.
In addition, Eddie Downey said Minister Coveney must deliver the CAP direct payments early this year on October 16th and ensure full funding in Budget to provide for a GLAS payment for 30,000 farmers.
The IFA president said restoring confidence at farm level is critical and again called on the factories and their retail clients to reverse the unjustified price cuts. Eddie Downey said Minister Coveney must stand up for farmers and his Beef Forum must deliver on the key issues now.