Beef Summit: a step in the right direction – ICSA

ICSA Chief Executive Officer Eddie Punch believes that some good will come out of the round table beef discussions hosted by the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney in Dublin this week.

“We received a commitment that the Minister of the day will convene a meeting of all the relevant stakeholder groups every three months so as to thrash out those issues that have a bearing on the overall performance of the industry, and specifically where the interests of primary producers are concerned,” he said

“But the Minister must be more than an honest broker in this process. It is his job to ask all the hard questions of the plants. And, it was encouraging to note that he started off in the right frame of minds yesterday. A case in point was his direct questioning of the plants on the issue of the 380 kilo maximum carcase weight they are now specifying. Of even more significance was the fact that they had major difficulties answering this question.

“ICSA remains strongly of the view that an Independent Beef Regulator should be appointed to prevent the worst of the excesses that have been visited upon farmers over recent months. This includes the steps taken by the plants to slash prices without warning and to radically change carcass specifications, again without warning.

“The factories must recognise that there are significant extra costs incurred by farmers in producing finished cattle at this time of the year. And the prices they pay farmers must reflect this reality.”

Edie Punch also believes that farmrs must lay their part I the processes put in train by the Minister.

“But the plants must give farmers realistic targets to meet. And in this regard the new carcass specification targets make no sense at all. We were able to show the Minister yesterday, courtesy of actual kill sheets, that where suckler beef is concerned it is only the worst performing Continental bulls that will meet the new carcase specifications and the accompanying bonuses.

“This goes against every principle that suckler farmers hold dear to. The Minister seems to have set his mind against the appointment of an independent Beef Regulator. This leaves him with no option but to take on the mantle himself.”