Immediate action is required following the “sudden and unfair“ 5c/kg beef price cut imposed by processors recently, according to independent TD, Michael Fitzmaurice.
He believes the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine must intervene and “hold processors to account”, particularly since a €100 million capital investment scheme was made available as a result of the potential impacts of Brexit.
Following processors’ decisions to drop to impose a 5c/kg beef price cut this week, Fitzmaurice said: “When you look at market reports and the price of beef in the UK, the decision to drop prices here are totally unjustified.”
“The market reasoning given so far to explain away the cut has been wholly unsatisfactory. Supplies of finished cattle are tight at present and some factories are only killing on three days of the week.”
Beef Market Taskforce
Fitzmaurice stressed that the Beef Market Taskforce needs to be called back as a matter of urgency. Additionally, he called for all future meetings of the taskforce to be broadcast live online – as committee meetings are in Leinster House.
“This would ensure complete transparency and give farmers across the country the opportunity to watch the discussions for themselves.”
“Farm organisations are doing their best to hold the other stakeholders to account, but there is no reason why all farmers should not be given the opportunity to see what is going on with their own eyes.
“The taskforce needs to meet at least once a month. The technology is there to be utilised in order to hold the meetings virtually and broadcast it live. Farmers deserve transparency when it comes to decisions around their livelihoods,” Fitzmaurice concluded.
Farm organisations have also ventured their anger following some beef plant’s moves to reduce prices and a 3-day-a-week kill.
There is no logical reason for factories to slash beef quotes to the €3.70/kg mark this week, according to ICSA beef chair, Edmund Graham.
He believes farmers are entitled to an explanation and factories must be held to account. “Again, we are seeing factories moving in unison to cut prices, and in many cases, cut back to a three-day week.”
“Demand for beef remains high and sterling rates are favourable. Yet, many farmers are reporting difficulties booking cattle in for slaughter and those that do get slots are being hammered on price.”
“It makes no sense, and again, we are seeing winter finishers bearing the brunt. They are being left to shoulder the full cost of feeding cattle over the winter which is completely unsustainable and cannot be allowed to continue.”
Supermarket price for beef strengthens
Meanwhile, according to IFA national livestock chairman, Brendan Golden, the supermarket price for beef in the UK has strengthened in the past week and sales remain strong.
Beef prices in the UK are “strong and steady”, rising over 7p/kg since the beginning of January. He said that with sterling strengthening by 3% over the same period to 87.5p/€, market conditions for Irish meat factories are “favourable”.
Supplies of finished cattle are tight, while in addition, UK production for the year is predicted to contract by 5%, according to Golden.
“The current Prime Export Benchmark price of €3.76/kg, which is based on prices in our key markets, highlights the dysfunction of the EU policy when it comes to beef farmers, an approach that must be stopped. This price is up to 80c/kg below production costs for Irish beef farmers,” he said.