Government ‘asleep at the wheel’ as beef sector plunged into crisis

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has cautiously welcomed the beef agreement that was tabled after marathon talks last weekend.

However, he did warn that the Government has been “asleep at the wheel” for far too long when it came to beef farmers and the sector.

Deputy Martin as speaking during Dáil proceedings earlier this week after members of the Oireachtas returned from the summer recess.

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed updated members – during proceedings – about the negotiations that had taken place between representatives from farm organisations and Meat Industry Ireland (MII) a few days ago.

‘Debating the matter’

Marin, meanwhile, pointed to how there should now be an opportunity provided “to debate” the agreement – which, he added, “has come about belatedly”.

The Government was asleep at the wheel for far too long in the context of the beef sector and beef farmers.

He continued: “On the beef industry, many of the basic issues – such as the 30-month age restriction, four-movement rule, weight restrictions on cattle and the 70-day residency provision – could have been tackled much earlier.

“So too could the establishment of a task force and dealing with other matters that are now encompassed within the agreement.

“In the overall interest of farmers, workers and all involved generally, space should be given to enable the deal to be taken on board.”

Under pressure

Meanwhile, deputy Martin pointed to how – in recent years – Irish beef farmers were coming under more and more pressure because of consistently falling incomes coupled with higher costs annually.

Fundamentally, looking back and looking at it from a distance, one could say the primary producer has been increasingly marginalised in the sector overall.

He added: “The Government and beef industry itself have reacted far too late to what has been a growing and deepening crisis for many beef farmers.

“That belated response has not only contributed to the crisis itself but also to the difficulty in resolving it.”