Opinion

The Beef Forum – 12 months of hot air

The main news from the most recent round of talks of the Beef Forum is that the beef factories confirmed that they will not change the 30-month age requirement within the current beef classification grid.

This was the news that greeted every livestock farmer in Ireland the morning after the most recent meeting of the Beef Forum. What absolute arrogance on the part of the meat plants.

These people have sat around the table with the other beef stakeholder groups for the past year and decided that they intend doing absolutely nothing as part of their involvement with the roundtable process.

They, obviously, wanted to take part in nothing more than a talking shop. And this is exactly what they succeeded in turning the beef roundtable into.

The forum was established at the height of the crisis which engulfed the beef industry last year. Twelve months on, cattle prices have improved significantly and the memory of the turmoil that so characterised 2014 seems to be ‘conveniently’ fading within certain industry groupings.

But let’s be clear about one thing: the current upturn in beef prices has nothing at all to do with innovative marketing practises or new markets. The only factors driving Irish cattle prices at the present time are a shortage of finished stock and the beneficial impact of the weak euro.

Looking to the future, it behoves every stakeholder within the livestock sector not to be lulled into a feeling of false security. The reality is that the seeds of the next beef crisis have already been sown.

Approximately 110,000 extra calves were born in Ireland this year, which means that new markets will have to be found for all of these additional animals during the period ahead.

Minister Coveney’s sign off to the beef forum was a commitment to legislate for the establishment of beef producer groups in the autumn. But it’s very hard to discern how this measure will help put the beef industry on a long-term, sustainable footing.

Meanwhile, Ireland’s dairy processors are securing record export sales to the US. But can the same be said for their beef counterparts?

The last few months have seen the US and China opened to Irish beef imports. Surely, the currency driver alone should make substantial sales of beef from this country to the US a viable option?

Perhaps the meat factories would like to give the beef farmers of Ireland an update on this particular issue?

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