Independent TD, Michael Fitzmaurice, has called for an investigation into beef prices in Ireland.
The deputy made the statement whilst addressing An Táiniste, Leo Varadkar, during Leaders’ Questions on Thursday, March 25th, 2021.
“If the Tánaiste or I go to buy a car today and visit three different garages that sell the same car new, we will get a different price,” he said in his opening statement.
“If he looks at the television night after night, each of the different stores that sell food will be able to tell him how much he saves.”
“Funnily enough; however, it has been brought to my attention by individual farmers that, in January of this year, the beef price was €4.00/kg. In February, all of a sudden, it dropped to €3.70, while markets in Europe did not show a deterioration.”
He referred to the media’s publication of factory prices and added that “the same price is there for each and every one of them [factories]”. He said, “it is as if someone has a magic wand over all of this”.
“As they say in rural Ireland, there is not a breadth of a hair between them, ironically enough, even though meat is going to different parts and different contracts, be it in Ireland or Europe.”
He said that drilling down into this information, especially around February 7th, 2021, data shows factories quoted €3.75/kg for heifers and €2.90/kg for cows.
“Drilling down more, it is seen that, in certain parts of the country, especially in the south, one factory ended up on the price of €4.48/kg.
“A person does not have to be a mathematician to take out all the bonuses and see that the price would have to be around €4.00-€4.10/kg.”
“Ironically enough; however, it has been stated to me from information I received that beef feedlots are what brought in a large amount of cattle that week.”
“It appears, and I am saying it appears, that a small farmer will get one price, but a person on a contract or who is a big operator will get a second price.”
Investigation into beef prices
He called on the government to instigate an investigation concerning this. “From talking to the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, all it will say is that it is concerned about the consumer.”
“The farmer is the person who produces the goods. However, at the moment, the farmer is a price-taker.”
Fitzmaurice urged the government to introduce a “regulator with teeth to go in and take the computers and data”.
“In 2019, the Minister, Deputy McConalogue, stated that it needed a full investigation. We are not accusing anybody of anything. However, what we are hearing on the ground, which generally is not too far wrong, is that something is amiss with what is going on in the beef sector.”
Concluding, he asked if the Tánaiste will work with the other parties to “do this for the sake of agriculture and of farmers”.