Agriculture committee calls on meat processors to appear

The Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine has called on meat processors to attend a sitting of the body to discuss the issue of beef prices.

At a sitting today, November 20, representatives of Bord Bia were explaining their preparations for Brexit, when the conversation turned to prices and the state of the meat industry here.

Senator Michelle Mulherin, the Taoiseach’s nominee in the Seanad, asked the Bord Bia delegation how meat factories have been challenged by the authorities here.

“The primary producer, the farmer, is not even breaking even, so how are [the factories] being challenged?” asked Mulherin.

Responding, Padraig Brennan, Bord Bia’s director of markets, pointed out that the board’s role is marketing and promotion, something he claimed it has been successful at.

What we’ve been trying to do, as part of out marketing prioritisation work, is identifying, with the industry, which markets they feel is a priority, and where we can grow the value of business.

“We need guidance. Whether in terms of at a processor level or a customer level, we need guidance so we can find opportunities for us to grow,” said Brennan.

Mulherin, however, was less than impressed with this response, saying: “How about you turn around to those processors and say: ‘give the farmers a fare price’.

“These factories are all-powerful. The beef forum is up in the air at the moment. The prices are depressed, and the prospect isn’t good,” she added.

These processors aren’t paying you to do this, the taxpayer is. So can we not ask something of these processors. As I understand it, for the same carcass in the UK, farmers get the equivalent of €200 more.

She also rose the issue of price uniformity across the processors, and why Bord Bia was not challenging this.

Fine Gael’s Pat Deering, chair of the committee, rose the possibility of looking at the issue again in the future, saying: “Maybe we should have another meeting with the processors. Maybe they have a part to play in all this.” Meanwhile, another member said Meat Industry Ireland should be brought in to answer questions.

The Bord Bia representatives said that they would “only be too happy to be part of any broader discussion on that matter”.