CONFIDENCE among beef producers can only be restored if the current meat factory pricing grid for cattle is reviewed and if the results of inspections of mechanical graders are published, according to the ICMSA.
Senior figures at the dairy farmer body welcomed Agriculture Minister Brendan Smith’s statement during Beef Expo Ireland 2010 in Kilkenny that he was willing to review certain factors which farmers view as inhibiting their sector.
The ICMSA has consistently opposed the beef pricing grid, the carcass quality classification system introduced on December 15 last year.
ICMSA beef and cattle chairman, Kevin Connolly, said: “We are now fast approaching the first anniversary of the introduction of the present beef grid. It is now utterly obvious that a very substantial majority of Irish farmers simply do not possess any confidence in the current grid.
“It is arbitrary, over-complicated and incapable of transmitting logical and simple messages back to farmers about the prices they can expect to receive.”
Dairy farmers had resisted last year’s introduction of the new beef grid, stating that the new quality metrics would deliver poor prices for dairy-cross animals.
The ICMSA remains a harsher critic of the grid than the IFA, whose members accepted the new system after long negotiations with Meat Industry Ireland (MII).
Kevin Connolly said it was now common knowledge that even many experienced cattle agents confess that they cannot predict what cattle will make on the beef grid.
He accepts that the grid was not within the remit of the minister, but notes the mechanical graders were the responsibility of the department, and persistent reports about malfunctions have undermined farmer confidence in this critical area. It should be possible for the department to publish the results of their inspections of the mechanical graders in the same way as they publish the results of their milk quality inspections, says Mr Connolly.
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