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Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnanehttps://www.thatsfarming.com/
Catherina Cunnane hails from a sixth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the firm during its start-up phase in 2015.
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Beef Plan objects to Grant Thornton report at Beef Task Force meeting

Beef Plan Movement is “extremely disappointed” with the “lack” of data, research information and fact-based analyses in the draft Grant Thornton report on the in-spec criteria requirements for retail specification.

The group expressed its objection to the report at a Beef Task Force on December 17th.

Dermot O’Brien and Enda Fingleton, taskforce members appointed to represent the farm group, issued a joint statement after the meeting.

“Beef Plan demanded further input at taskforce level and requested that a full sitting of the task force be dedicated to this very important topic, as a one-item agenda.”

“It was agreed that observations on the draft report could be submitted to the Task Force by January 7th, 2021.”

In-spec criteria

“Beef Plan outlined that consumers were not consulted and that in-spec criteria such as the 30 months upper age limit, on-farm residency requirements (70 days), the number of movements and residencies (4 movement rule) and upper weight limits are not requested by consumers, nor are these requirements advertised by retailers or food service industry on their products at point of sale.“

“In fact, it was stated that the food-service industry was not consulted, during the compilation of the Grant Thornton report thus far.”

Beef Plan conducted consumer surveys throughout Ireland in 2019. 97% of those surveyed did not seek to purchase beef at butcher or retailer level, with any of the four in-spec requirements outlined in the draft report.

“We are not surprised at the outcome of this report. Also, we have grave concerns about the third report being developed by Grant Thornton on ‘an independent examination of the price composition of the total value of an animal along the supply chain’.”

“Grant Thornton has already stated at the taskforce that transfer pricing is not being considered by them in their calculations, which immediately renders an incomplete report.”

Fatstock sales in livestock marts

O’Brien and Fingleton shed light on fatstock sales Beef Plan coordinated with mart managers nationwide over the past number of months. They said these sales have delivered “higher prices to farmers, prices that are over and above factory quotes”.

“It is alarming that meat factory buyers are in this position and nobody can explain why this is the case. It still remains one of the great mysteries of the beef industry.”

“Once again, Beef Plan reiterates the requirement of an ‘independent beef regulator with statutory powers’ to independently investigate the anomalies in the whole beef industry.”

“When the Beef Taskforce was questioned, as to why factory buyers were able to pay more for factory fit cattle at ringside, than what farmers could achieve by taking their cattle to meat factories, regardless of age, weight or number of movements, there was no answer as to why this was happening or how greater prices were achieved in livestock marts.”

Four on-farm residencies

“It was highlighted that only a small percentage of retail buyers require the 4 movements, yet all Irish beef produced has to comply with in-spec criteria. Grant Thornton were unable to clarify or quantify this despite having ten months to compile their report.”

The group feels that this draft report falls “long-short” of what is required by Irish farmers. “This draft report jeopardises the credibility of the Beef Task Force forum and those engaged around the table.”

“Clarification was sought from Grant Thornton on why the in-spec requirement of no more than ‘four on-farm residencies’ was required across all of the beef industry, when only 5% of key customers require ‘four on-farm residencies’, as a market specification.”

“Grant Thornton had no data or research to support that ‘four on-farm residencies’ was a requirement across all the markets, nor was there evidence to support the requirement of the 30-month upper age limit’ in third countries.”

“It was explained to Grant Thornton at the Taskforce that only three out of seventy countries that Ireland exports to request under thirty months old beef. One of those countries being China, who has agreed a trade deal with the USA to import beef that is up to 36 months of age.”

“Grant Thornton has been unable to establish a consumer requirement to support the assertions from processors or retailers that this age limit is required. Environmental impact is now being used to try and justify these unfair trading practices being imposed on farmers.”

“Beef Plan concludes that Grant Thornton has been unable to complete a comprehensive report on the task that they were commissioned to do by the Irish taxpayer and will be challenging some factual errors within the Grant Thornton report.”

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