Beef grid grading system has ‘cost farmers €120 million’

A real viable solution has to be found in “ongoing systematic flaws” in the beef sector – particularly with the beef grid grading system – according to the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA).

ICMSA president Pat McCormack commented on his organisation’s decision not to cross a farmer picket and attend today’s Beef Forum in the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

‘Systematic flaws’

He said that, while the ICMSA would always respect a farmer protest, it is hugely important that the difference is clear between an understandable display of frustration at poor prices and a real, viable solution to ongoing systemic flaws in the relationship between farmers and factories.

“The behaviour of the factories in the last three quarters, where they’ve added to the pressures that they know are piling up on farmers, is really inexcusable and very disappointing,” he said.

However, he cautioned against “looking at this latest episode and deciding on just that basis”, saying that the problems go deeper than recent price cuts.

We think that a huge part of the problem originates with the QPS Beef Grid that had an anti-farmer bias designed into it and which we estimate has cost farmers approximately €120 million since it was introduced eight years ago.

McCormack stressed that there needs to be an independent review of the grid, adding that a commitment to do so was previously given four years ago – but never happened.

‘Lack of transparency’

The ICMSA president highlighted two other key elements that have to be addressed: transparency and exporter presence in Beef Forum meetings.

McCormack called for transparency in the beef pricing structure that allows farmers to follow price in the same way as dairy farmers can reference the Ornua PPI.

Taking issue with the lack of any live exporter presence at the Beef Forum, he said: “The exporters are the only real competition to the factories and play an integral role in the beef trade – so they should be represented.

“We have to move towards dealing with the substantive issues and the ICMSA thinks that has to start with a ‘root-and-branch’ review of the beef grid that examines whether it’s fit for purpose and a real drive on getting live export numbers up,” he concluded.