AIB: Discussion groups boost beef sector optimism

Beef farmers are optimistic about their future, bolstered by participation in discussion groups, according to an AIB report on the sector.

Conducted in partnership with the IFA, and carried out by Ipsos MRBI and Broadmore Research & Consulting, the Outlook survey of 200 farmers showed that 70% identified definite opportunities for both themselves and the industry.

“Overall, the key findings show an encouraging level of optimism, with farmers focused on access to international markets and on industry level efficiencies,” said Anne Finnegan, AIB’s head of agriculture.

“Beef farmers realise that price fluctuations and volatility are part and parcel of trading in the world market, with most of their output geared towards export.”

Farmers were also, however, keenly aware of the challenges they may face. They include fluctuating cattle prices, pressure on profitability and rising input costs as core challenges.

In the past three years, 92% of farmers have introduced some measures to address the challenges encountered, with 66% planning to introduce further measures, primarily involving grassland management, increased stock numbers, and joining the Bord Bia Quality Assurance scheme.

Ms Finnegan noted that a quarter of beef farmers are now members of discussion groups. This level suggests beef farmers are set to follow in the footsteps of dairy farmers, whose longer established discussion groups have proven very popular and beneficial.

The report points to a close link between beef technology adoption programme (BTAP) membership and discussion group membership.

Four out of every five discussion group members joined their group since the introduction of BTAP. The main benefit of discussion group participation is identified as learning from other farmers (79%), while one in 10 farmers identify guidance on grassland management and a similar amount cost control as benefits.

Ken Burke, AIB’s head of business banking, noted that beef farmers have always been steady investors in developing their business.

While the end of the quota era has seen dairy farmers investing in expansion, beef farmers have been investing steadily in their business ever since the nitrates directive was introduced in 2006. Beef farmers generally carry smaller levels of debt.

“Year on year figures show there is always a demand from beef for our credit lines,” said Mr Burke.

“The beef sector contributes just as much as dairy to the Irish economy. Beef farming is the dominant enterprise on Irish farms, with over 95,000 farms having some element of a beef business.”



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