The Department of Agriculture’s Beef Pricewatch gives farmers near irrelevant information, fuelling suspicions regarding cattle pricing, said ICMSA livestock chairman, Michael Guinan.
Mr Guinan said the new PriceWatch gives an average price based on the beef grid. He said, given all the other specifications at play, this average is almost irrelevant.
In recent replies to Dáil questions on the price dispute between beef farmers and meat plants, Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney said his department is working to deliver greater transparency in the sector.
“On the question of price transparency, my department has improved its website in order to make price information more user friendly for farmers. This is a key step along the road to developing a Beef Pricewatch app for mobile phones and tablets.”
The minister said this online tool would make price information more accessible and free to farmers. He said the department has improved its website to make price information more user-friendly for farmers.
However, Mr Guinan said that, unlike farmers, meat plants have full data on all animals supplied to them, and the department personnel have access to full information on beef prices through its price reporting structure in meat plants.
“Unless the Beef Pricewatch can provide clear information on the various penalties and bonuses being applied by meat processors on a weekly basis, all it will do is confuse and mislead farmers and that’s precisely what it’s doing at the moment,” said Mr Guinan.
“In actual fact, an average price per grade hides a lot of information and if the department is serious about providing clear information to farmers, they should at the very minimum provide the range of prices for each grade: that is the maximum and minimum price paid for each grade that week.
“In addition, the Pricewatch needs to specify exactly what the price quoted refers to in terms of specification and also needs to set out the reductions being applied where animals fall outside the so-called specification.”
Meanwhile, Noel Grealish, independent TD for Galway West, asked Mr Coveney if he could explain why all beef factories quote the same price with no price difference between them; and the reason one company can control of over 90% of the rendering industry, reducing competition in the sector.
Mr Coveney said the department’s website offers farmers a wealth of information on each approved factory, including the prices for steers, cows, heifers and young bulls across the classification grid.
“This data shows unequivocally that different factories are paying different prices to farmers for their cattle,” said Minister Coveney.
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