€50m to soften Covid-19 blow for beef finishers

€50m to soften Covid-19 blow for beef finishers
Following Strict New measures of Covid19 two meter distances and fewer buyers allowed to participate in the auctions at Monday’s weekly sale of calves and weanlings, introduced at Castleisland Mart on Monday 8th June, following the opening of Phase 2 Government guidelines. Castleisland Mart also introduced Mart Eye technology to allow it to expand its sales to a broader client base. Photo: Valerie O’Sullivan

Reduced beef cattle prices and a 15 to 20% per cent reduction in beef processing in late March, April, and May, have prompted Agriculture Minister Michael Creed to announce a €50 million support scheme for beef finishing farms.

The scheme received cabinet approval this week.

But the details of how it will help farms severely impacted by the economic effects of the Covid-19 pandemic have yet to be agreed.

Minister Creed said his Department will engage with beef industry stakeholders in relation to the details.

The proposed scheme must also be submitted to the EU for state aid approval, but this should not present any problems, with eight member states having already benefitted from a new temporary state aid framework, putting in place specific schemes for agriculture totalling about €1.23 billion.

However, it could take many weeks for the scheme to be finalised, submitted to the EU, and approved in Brussels.

Since Covid-19 restrictions came into place in late March, through to late May, the prime beef cattle throughput at plants was significantly behind what would be expected at this time of year.

During this ten-week period, 215,066 prime cattle passed through plants, a reduction of just under 37,000 head, or 15%, compared to the corresponding period in 2019.

Cow throughput in beef plants followed a similar trend in the ten weeks to May 30, falling 20% behind the same period in 2019.

Covid-19 not only reduced prime cattle and cow processing, but also depressed prices.

And the resulting backlog of cattle on farms is likely to depress prices further.

Minister Creed said, “I urge all actors in the supply chain to recognise their interdependence and work collaboratively towards our shared objective, a beef sector which is economically, environmentally and socially sustainable.”

“I have now made over €200 million in new money available specifically to beef farmers over the past two years on top of the €300 million under the Beef Data and Genomics Programme.”

Minister Creed also announced that a video conference meeting of the Beef Taskforce is planned for the end of June.

IFA President Tim Cullinan welcomed the announcement by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Minister Creed of the €50m direct payment package for beef farmers.

He said, “The details of the scheme and the small print will be very important.

He said IFA was due to meet with the Department of Agriculture next Monday to progress the scheme details further”.

IFA Livestock Chairman Brendan Golden also welcomed the beef package, saying finishers took a severe financial hit this spring.

“As a major beef exporter, Ireland was hit much harder than many other countries.”

He said finishers have been set back €200 per head, compared to pre-Brexit and pre-Covid prices.

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