Meat factories and farmers in last ditch beef talks

Beef farmers are set to hold a 48-hour blockade outside 30 Irish meat factories from this Sunday afternoon unless processors reinstate the meat grid, the IFA has stated.

The IFA is to sit down with meat factory leaders this morning. The next industry-wide Beef Forum is set for next Wednesday in Dublin.

Processors claimed the IFA’s recent 24-hour blockade cost the industry €10m-€15m. Meat Industry Ireland (MII) described the blockades as misguided, counterproductive and damaging.

IFA president, Eddie Downey, said: “We will do our best to agree upon a solution to as many as possible of the problems, but the industry needs to come up to the plate.

“They’ve torn things apart in the last year, constantly changing the goalposts in terms of specs, weight limits and age structures on a weekly basis . Unless there is real engagement from the processors, we will take action this weekend.”

The IFA’s list of demands includes: Re-instatement of the Quality Payment System without dual base price cuts for breeds, weights or age; no carcase weight limits as part of QPS; an increase in the age limit from 30 months to 36 months; and a bonus payment for all animals from a QA farm.

The IFA also wants the number of farm residencies should be increased; more contracts and premium payments at viable levels for winter finishers and bull beef producers; and price transparency in the supply chain, with reporting of wholesale and retail prices, as well as producer prices.

However, MII says Irish cattle prices are down 10-12% this year, matching a dip across the EU, where beef consumption has fallen 700,000 tonnes since 2010.

MII chairman, Ciaran Fitzgerald, said: “Irish beef production is up 15% year on year so we are selling an additional 75,000 tonnes of beef into a market where consumption has fallen dramatically. Exports in 2014 will exceed €2bn in value, repeating the record levels achieved in 2013.”

MII says Irish cattle prices have increased from 92% of the EU average to 100% of the EU average. Given that Ireland exports 500,000 tonnes of beef into these EU markets, this is a strong performance, it claims.

Industry commentators have urged both sides to find a solution. They cite a potential impact on new export routes such as China, which could reopen to Irish beef by next summer.

IFA livestock chairman, Henry Burns, says farmers will be driven out of beef production unless order in restored in the industry. He wants next week’s Beef Forum to reassure farmers with an independent department inspector in each meat plant to oversee carcase trim, weights and classification, and appeals.

He says farmers also need an end to the roadblocks impeding the live trade to Northern Ireland and Britain; and a support for an active live export trade to instil greater competition in the beef trade.


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