As the prices of finished beef and summer grazing stock continue to rise around the country, the one question that everyone in the industry is asking is, how long can this trend be maintained?
How long before market forces rebalance themselves?
There is no simple answer. In this, the spring of 2012, we are as an industry in uncharted waters. Never before has market demand pushed farm gate prices to these levels.
The answer to the question of “how long” is undeterminable. The only thing we can be reasonably sure of is that the higher prices go, the bigger any potential drop, and the greater the difficulties for those caught with stock bought at those higher prices.
But does it have to so? Can we not do something to lessen any potential price falls?
“Don’t argue about the difficulties. The difficulties can argue for themselves.” That was Winston Churchill’s motto.
Mr Churchill’s attitude in times of uncertainty was that you plan to push forward, and by taking the fight to your enemies, you possibly avoid the worse case scenario.
The market place is not unlike a battlefield, with companies striving to achieve market share against equally committed opponents.
I was very heartened when I heard that Larry Goodman’s ABP group have put plans in place to help take the fight for increased market share to a new level, and in so doing also, to consolidate the gains Irish beef has made internationally in recent times.
The result of the world shortage of beef has been that Irish product has become very much sought after, as supermarkets seek to keep their shelves stocked.
Realising that the current situation presented marketing opportunities, the ABP group will be launching three new branded products next month to add to their existing lines that include both Hereford Prime and Certified Irish Angus. Their objective is to make Irish beef more recognisable and desirable to UK shoppers, so that in the future, should beef supply from other quarters become more freely available, brand loyalty coupled with intelligent advertising will have hopefully helped consolidate the group’s market share.
The consolidation of market share has been a bugbear of mine for years. It must be 20 years since I first used the term “recognisable and desirable”, to describe what Irish beef needed to be if it was to ever get off the floor price-wise, internationally.
The emphasis of the Goodman plan is to be placed on taste, natural sustainable production methods (a superior and healthier food from the Irish grass-based system). Once you establish the image of a better product in the mind of the public, you then make it easier for that same public to recognise it in the future, by branding it.
While we farmers have over the years battled Mr Goodman and others in the processing sector over pricing at the farm gate — a fight that no doubt will go on — I for one am delighted that his marketing people have taken on the challenge of making our products both recognisable and desirable to the shoppers of Britain and elsewhere.
If the strategy of creating a recognisable difference in the minds of consumers between specialised Irish grass-fed beef (as opposed to mass-produced European grain-fed product) is successful, the possibility exists that the future could be very rosy indeed.
I wonder whether or not our farm organisations will ever wake up to the reality that what sells our food products abroad is not conformation or fat score, but our image of green fields; clean, clear rivers; and rolling countryside.
Should they realise this, will they then campaign for image rights for those who keep it so?
Your public image is worth money; just ask Board Fáilte or any professional sportsman.
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