IFA President Joe Healy told Agriculture Minister Michael Creed and the meat factories that the income crisis on livestock farms must be addressed and profitable beef farming is essential for the development of the Irish beef sector. Joe Healy was speaking at a meeting of the Beef Forum chaired by Minister Creed.
The IFA President said, “Growing output alone, without improving incomes on livestock farms is an unsustainable strategy for the Irish beef sector, which is the country’s largest farming sector, worth €2.4bn and involving 80,000 farmers”.
Joe Healy made it clear to the meat factories beef prices must rise. Based on the cost of production, Teagasc has shown that on our most efficient farms, a price of at least €4.00/kg for grass beef and €4.50/kg for winter beef is needed.
The IFA President called on Minister Creed and the Government to mount a strong response at national and EU level to the challenge from Brexit. He said the collapse in beef prices blamed on Brexit is a market disturbance under CAP, similar to the Russian ban, and justifies direct action by the EU Commission.
Joe Healy said, “With the forecast for an additional 100,000 head of cattle next year, a strong live export trade is vital for calves, weanlings, stores and finished cattle. Live exports are essential for competition and to support market balance and viable prices, as well as additional market outlets”. He called on the Department of Agriculture to increase resources and dedicated personnel on market access and to prioritise the live trade. In addition, he said the Minister must work to remove the barriers on the live trade to Northern Ireland and Britain.
The IFA President said direct support for the suckler herd must be increased to €200 per cow in order to maintain our important quality beef herd. An IFA-commissioned study by Professor Alan Renwick from UCD shows that every €1 in direct support to the beef sector underpins €4.28 in output in the economy and all of this remains in rural areas.
Joe Healy told the Beef Forum that Ireland must actively pursue EU regulation to rebalance power in the food chain and ensure a fairer share-out of returns from consumers. This requires full transparency and reporting on prices and margins outside the farmgate and a ban on unfair trading practices, as proposed by this week’s Agricultural Markets Task Force report, commissioned by Commissioner Phil Hogan.
Joe Healy said the EU Commission report on trade deals published this week highlights the devastating impact of further concessions on beef. He said because of the importance of the beef sector in Ireland we are the most exposed EU member state. He said the Government needs to make it clear to Brussels that a Mercosur trade deal is a red line issue and there is no room for any increase in beef imports in TTIP.
The IFA President set out a list of action points for the Beef Forum including outstanding issues from last year on price transparency, specifications, and carcase trim. He said the Department must deliver on the Forum agreement to make Agricultural Officers responsible for monitoring carcase trim in the meat plants.