Speaking at a livestock farmers protest outside McDonalds restaurant, Hebron Road, Kilkenny, IFA President Eddie Downey said it is totally unacceptable that everybody in the beef supply chain was standing back and letting farmers take the full financial hit in this crisis.
The Ballacolla man said farmers feel betrayed by the unacceptable behaviour and lack of corporate responsibility on the part of the powerful players in the supply chain including meat factories, retailers and food service outlets like McDonalds, Burger King and Supermacs.
Eddie Downey said the lack of engagement and progress in efforts at resolving the price and specification cuts was infuriating for farmers who feel they are being let down badly. “With beef prices down by €200 per head from last year and at incomes ranging from €9,469 to €15,595, as confirmed by Teagasc, livestock farmers feel angry and frustrated that their issues are being ignored.” He said with beef prices in our main markets in the UK, and across the EU, stable and recovering, the most recent price cuts by the factories cannot be justified.
The IFA President said purchasers of Irish beef heavily utilise our high quality, grass-based beef production systems to gain market advantage. “These marketing drives around environmental sustainability using Origin Green and Quality Assurance are positive and justified, but they also carry a core corporate responsibility to ensure economic sustainability for farmers.”
Acknowledging the high quality and standards of McDonalds Europe and their commitment to Irish beef, Eddie Downey said Irish farmers like their EU colleagues are entitled to a viable income for their work and investment.
He said following on from the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney’s meeting with the meat processors yesterday, he must assert his authority and demand that the factories respect the agreement they entered into with farmers on the price grid under the Quality Payment System (QPS). He said the Minister must insist that the factories remove the unfair specifications cuts on dual pricing, weights, age and breeds that were never part of the QPS.
IFA National Livestock Chairman Henry Burns said farmers expect Minister Coveney to take a much more hands-on approach in tackling the issues that are negatively impacting on their incomes. “The Minister must ensure that there is strong competition and transparency in the beef sector. Cattle prices must fairly reflect market returns. We need a strong live export trade to keep a balance in supplies and support viable prices.”
Henry Burns said contracts from the factories at viable price level are essential, especially for the higher cost winter finishing and bull beef systems and that IFA has been working hard with processors in Northern Ireland and UK retailers to try to resolve the problems impeding the live trade to the North. He said, “We worked to put forward branding solutions and these have now been approved by the Department of Agriculture in the North”. He added that Ministers Simon Coveney and Michelle O’Neill must now ensure that the supermarkets adopt these labels, which are mandatory under EU regulations.
Mr Burns said Minister Coveney must deliver 100% of the CAP direct payments early this year on October 16th and ensure full funding in the Budget to provide for a GLAS payment for 30,000 farmers.
The IFA livestock leader said restoring confidence at farm level is critical and again called on the factories and their retail and food service clients to reverse the unjustified price and specification cuts. Henry Burns said Minister Coveney must stand up for farmers and his Beef Forum must deliver on the key issues now.