“To be perfectly honest, if we do not get this ombudsman in place, if we do not fund the office and if we do not have the right person in charge, then we will have no beef industry.”
Fine Gael senator, Tim Lombard, issued that stark warning as he spoke during a Seanad debate earlier this week. The senator raised the issue of beef factory price cuts and described the decline in quotes in recent weeks as “alarming”.
“I had beef farmers on to me yesterday absolutely devastated that there has been a further decline in prices of 10 cent per kilo this week alone in the factories. Taking into consideration that fertiliser prices and grain prices are going up, and beef prices are going down, the industry is going into crisis.”
“We have had beef protests over recent years; we had tribunals years before that. We have never solved the question of how farmers can get a fair price for a fair product. We have a top-quality product, and that lack of fairness and traceability in the marketplace is becoming a huge issue.”
‘Beef barons do not care’
He called on Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue, to come before the House to explain his views on the food ombudsman, which is “his silver bullet to ensure that the market can be shown how it will work on the ground”.
This ombudsperson has the ability, if properly legislated for, to become a “game-changer”, according to the senator.
“That is the issue. If proper legislation and proper finance are put in place, and a proper person put in charge to ensure he or she can drive the agenda, I believe we can have that fairness in the marketplace that we do not have now.”
“We have spoken about this ombudsman for many years. We put money into the last budget for the ombudsman. Now we need to see the legislation come before the houses, and we need action from the Government.”
“One thing is certain; the beef barons do not care about beef farmers in west County Cork. The only way we can protect them is to ensure that we put proper legislation and a proper ombudsman in place.” the senator concluded.