Agreement and POs ‘the way forward’ for beef – Varadkar

The stakeholder agreement struck between beef sector stakeholders last weekend and the formation of producer organisations to negotiate beef price and contracts are the way forward for beef farmers, according to Taoiseach of Ireland Leo Varadkar.

Speaking on the third day of the 2019 National Ploughing Championships, the Taoiseach spoke to media in relation to the current beef crisis and the financial pressures on farmers.

Commenting on calls for increased funding on top of the €100 million fund for the Beef Exceptional Aid Measure (BEAM), the Taoiseach said:

“There is a €100 million fund available to farmers; that is yet to be all drawn down. As yet only €80 million has been drawn down so far, and in addition to that ANC payments are going to be paid out in the next couple of weeks. The budget for that was increased this year.

So the important thing is that we draw down the money that’s already been allocated, and certainly when that’s done we can request further money at that point.

Commenting on what he’d like to say to farmers on picket lines outside factories at present, Varadkar said: “The Government totally appreciates and understands the enormous financial pressure that 70-75,000 beef farmers and their families have been faced with for the past year.

“The price at factory gates is less than the cost of production and that’s not sustainable for anyone. It’s not something that we can control – the price is much the same across Europe and indeed lower outside of Europe.

“But we can help; that’s why we’ve put the €100 million available there to support farmers’ incomes; and it’s also why Michael Creed brokered that agreement with the meat industry and the six main farm organisations.

“What I’d say to farmers on the pickets is give it a chance to work.

For the first time we have a producer organisation for beef farmers in Ireland; at the moment they really are price takers – but producer organisations, they have much more bargaining power and they can negotiate a price and they can negotiate on proper contracts – and I think that’s the way forward.

“I’d really call on the meat industry and factories to express their willingness to meet with and negotiate with producer organisations on contracts and price,” Taoiseach Varadkar concluded.