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Opinion: Where did the problems for beef producers begin?

Irish farmers produce food of the highest quality in the world, yet beef farmers are presenting finished cattle to processors at a loss, writes Pat Maher, Independent Farmers of Ireland member.

Farmers blame processors and retailers for absorbing all the profit. The truth is why wouldn’t they when there are no obstacles to prevent them?

It seems that PATHWAYS FOR GROWTH and FOOD HARVEST 2020 could be the culprits in all of this.

These strategic documents may give reason to suspect that there is a concerted consolidation and rationalization agenda underway in the beef sector in Ireland.

To read through these initiatives one would stumble on some very worrying language such as ‘Co-opetition’, Co-branding’ and ‘Collaboration’.

These documents also contain words like ‘rationalization’ and ‘consolidation’ – this language does not fall within the remit of competition law.

In fact, these initiatives appear to do everything but promote competition. Perhaps, these could be some reasons why farmers find themselves in the situation they are in today?

We often hear of anti-competitive and restrictive practices in the beef industry, but we never hear of where they originated from.

At some point in time, we are going to have to look back and ask where did it all go wrong for beef producers?

Before we can plan the next phase of strategies for farming, we need to learn from previous strategies by studying how they were designed and implemented.

It is clear for anyone to see that the current agenda has failed farmers, their families and rural Ireland as a whole.

Beef farming is at a crossroads – what we need now more than ever is a roadmap to guide us in the right direction and not to allow history to repeat itself.

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