6 ‘deliverable results’ called for from beef taskforce

The Beef Markets Taskforce must deliver real results for farmers and not just end up as a talking shop, according to the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA), which has assembled six key deliverable results it wishes to see emerge from the grouping.

Commenting on measures agreed by stakeholders in the sector, ICSA president Edmond Phelan stressed that the onus is on Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Michael Creed and the chairman of the taskforce, Michael Dowling, to ensure that the meat industry “does not drag its heels or act as a barrier to progress”.

“The appointment of a chairman without any consultation with farm organisations has led to serious unease,” Phelan claimed.

“The first set of negotiations in August produced a result which was deeply unsatisfactory to many farmers and contributed to the prolonged blockade in September.”

Stating that a lesson must be learned from this, the ICSA president added that the meat industry “cannot be allowed to frustrate progress nor can its red lines be seen as the red lines for the taskforce”.

“Farmers are watching carefully, and they want to see real change.”

According to the ICSA, key deliverable results from the taskforce include:
  • Transparency over how much of the final retail price is delivered to farmers, including the fifth quarter;
  • A proper, independent, evidence-based assessment of whether in-spec criteria are justified by consumer demands;
  • Completion of the review of the grid with upwards adjustment of the U-grade price to take account of the imbalance on the grid due to the proliferation of lower-grade cattle;
  • Better oversight of factory floor grievances such as trim and grading anomalies;
  • Full engagement by the retail trade; and
  • Appointment of a regulator.

The ICSA president added that, if there is any sense that progress is frustrated, the minister must intervene immediately.

“It is not good enough to blame it all on markets when the big three processors in Ireland are so dominant, not only in Ireland but also in the UK,” Phelan continued.

“It is all too easy to say we have to do what UK supermarkets tell us, but the reality is that the UK beef consumer is massively dependent on beef processed by the big three Irish processors from farms in Ireland and the UK.

If these farmers gave up producing beef the only realistic alternative would be beef from South America.

“The retailers would then have to explain that all the quality assurance and the in-spec requirements, the traceability and the animal welfare and environmental benefits of our beef was now gone forever,” the president claimed.

“We also saw with the blockades that shops were only days away from beef shortages. So to say that we have no influence on the marketplace is too convenient an excuse. This must be kept in mind during taskforce proceedings,” Phelan concluded.