Farmers will see an immediate increase in the price they receive for their cattle following a deal with meat producers.
After 36 hours of intense negotiations, a tentative deal between farmers and meat processors was agreed yesterday in talks convened by Agriculture Minister Michael Creed.
A cautious welcome has greeted the news of the deal which had followed weeks of bitter protests from farmers at meat factories across the country. Cattle slaughtering at blockaded plants has been halted during the talks.
However, the agreement does not come into place until all blockades have been lifted. Last night, some farmers on the picket lines were refusing to budge, despite the deal.
The deal was struck between Meat Industry Ireland, the beef producer’s representative body; the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA); the Irish Creamery and Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA); Macra na Feirme; the Beef Plan Movement, and the Irish Natura and Hill Farmers Association.
Under the terms of the deal, beef producers will immediately benefit from increased prices for cattle they sell.
The deal commits to an increase of 66% in the current in-spec bonus for steers and heifers from 12c/kg to 20c/kg.
It also sees the introduction of a new bonus of 8c/kg for steers and heifers aged between 30 to 36 months, which meet all non-age related existing in-spec criteria, and which up to now have not received any bonus.
A number of other bonuses and reforms are also to be introduced.
A new Beef Market Task Force will be established to “provide leadership to develop a sustainable pathway for the future of the beef sector in terms of economic, environmental and social sustainability.
The deal also provides for An Bord Bia to develop a beef market price index model based on three components: cattle price index, beef market price index (retail and wholesale) and an offal price indicator, which will be introduced this week.
Commenting on the deal, Mr Creed said: “I wish to thank all participants in this process for their contribution towards agreeing a way forward for the Irish beef sector. I hope that this agreement will prove to be a first step in fostering stronger partnerships in this critical sector for the Irish economy and for Rural Ireland.”
The agreement has been welcomed by various farm organisations.
ICMSA president Pat McCormack said he hoped the taskforce will be a starting point the delivery of adequate margins for the farmer primary-producer.
“The agri-industry and food production has to be refocussed so that the people doing the most work for the longest time get an adequate share of the final retail prices,” he said.
IFA president Joe Healy said “difficult negotiations” had produced a realistic and deliverable agreement which will be recommended by all organisations.
“During a difficult endgame to the talks, the farm organisations stood together to get the best available outcome for farmers,” he said.
“This is far from a perfect deal. While there are some aspects which will make a difference immediately, there are others that will require a lot of further work.”
Mr Healy said the key elements of the agreement include additional bonuses for ‘In spec’ cattle and cattle between 30 and 36 months.
One farming organisation at the talks — the Independent Farmers of Ireland — issued a statement last night to say it never signed off on the agreement.
Farmers outside Dawn Meats in Co Waterford said that, despite the development, they would remain on the picket line. Should that sentiment not change in the coming days, resistance to the deal could grow.