Backdated Brexit package needed for farmers ‘facing financial ruin’

Farmers selling cattle at current unviable prices are shipping major financial losses and facing financial ruin, according to the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA).

Speaking on the issue, IFA National Livestock Committee chairman Angus Woods called on the Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed to insist that the Brexit compensation package currently being negotiated with the EU to be applied retrospectively.

Woods said the current base price for steers at €3.75/kg and €3.85/kg for heifers are down 25c/kg on this time last year or €100 per head.

“There was little or no margin in it last year and, at the low prices this year, finishers are facing financial ruin,” the chairman said.

‘Overcooking negativity’

Angus Woods accused the factories and agents of overcooking the negativity around the cattle price, which he said has seriously damaged farmer confidence in the sector.

“Cattle farmers have faced a barrage of negativity on the price since last autumn. It is incredible that the price has been stuck at a base of €3.75 for steers and €3.85 for heifers since last September.”

Cattle prices in the UK are £3.46 for the week ending March 9, equivalent to €4.24/kg including VAT at an exchange rate of 86p/€, the chairman said.

He added that this compares to the official Irish steer price of €3.84/kg for the same week – a price differential of 40c/kg or up to €150 per animal.

Across the main EU markets R3 male cattle are making: €4.31/kg for young bulls in Italy;€3.92/kg for steers, and €4.06/kg for young bulls in France; €3.93/kg for young bulls in Germany; and 3.98/kg for young bulls in Spain.

Woods said the very strong cattle price in the UK and the stronger prices across the main EU markets for male cattle all indicate that the factories here could be paying more.

‘Tightening in supplies’

On numbers, Woods said the latest weekly kill of 34,200 excluding calves point to some level of tightening in supplies.

This is the first time that the kill has come back to last year’s levels, he said.