Talks to end standoff over beef dispute could resume on Thursday

Talks to end standoff over beef dispute could resume on Thursday

Talks between beef farmers and producers could reconvene as early as Thursday, as both sides attempt to reach an agreement that will end the standoff over prices paid for cattle.

Discussions got underway on Monday involving the Beef Plan Movement, representing thousands of farmers across the country, Meat Industry Ireland, representatives from farm organisations, and the Department of Agriculture and its agencies.

The talks went into the early hours of Tuesday morning, after which independent chairman Michael Dowling was tasked with circulating a document outlining the proposals that were put forward.

IFA President Joe Healy said some progress had been made on market transparency and the introduction of a price index.

In a statement, the IFA said there is also “a commitment to look at the market specifications that impact on price that exist in the grid”.

The grid system is used within the industry to rank cattle.

IFA President Joe Healy. Picture: Finbarr O'Rourke.
IFA President Joe Healy. Picture: Finbarr O'Rourke.

Pat McCormack, National President of The Irish Creamery and Milk Suppliers' Association told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland that the talks have featured issues around the grid, how cattle are weighed prior to slaughter, and much-criticised producer incentives for farmers to bring in cattle before they turn 30 months.

“Until we get resolution on all of those and a review of the beef grid, it’s too early to speculate,” he said of the possible outcome of the talks.

IFA Presidential Candidate and National Treasurer Tim Cullinan said he believed the factories must put €30m on the table if the grid system is to be fixed.

“A return to the beef talks by Meat Industry Ireland, without money on the table would quite simply undermine beef farmers and undermine the negotiations,” he said.

Any talk by the factories of reviewing the grid, without putting money on the table to fix it, is absolutely disingenuous and will not yield any results for beef farmers who have been severely penalised by the same grid for many years. The factories must put their hands in their pockets if the grid issue is to be resolved.

Mr Cullinan said there is no point in Meat Industry Ireland going away from the talks to consider the grid system if it is not prepared to come back to the table with €30 million to address the issues which are weighing on farmers and cutting their income.

“They are merely paying lip service to the beef talks and attempting to fool those at the table if they fail to bring the necessary investment that is necessary to resolve the matter," he said.

"The fact is, the grid cannot and will not be fixed without money.

“Beef farmers lost up to €30m in income last year alone, as a consequence of the penalties imposed by the factory run grid system.

"The system is heavily stacked against farmers and weighted towards the factories. At a time when incomes are under pressure, the grid places further unacceptable and unbearable costs on beef and suckler farmers,” he added.

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