Beef Plan: ‘Fair Trade’ needs to begin at home

With Irish beef farmers currently supplying processors and retailers with produce for a price that is consistently below the cost of production, urgent action is needed to save beef farming, according to the Beef Plan Movement.

Making comparisons to the ‘Fair Trade’ brand used to allow consumers to ensure that they are supporting farmers in less developed countries in getting a fair price, a spokesperson for the movement underlined that such thinking needs to begin at home.

“There has never been a more apt description of what is required in Irish beef farming than the mission statement of Fair Trade,” according to the representative.

EGalim Law

The movement noted that in France the recently-introduced ‘EGalim Law’ has listed “to pay a fairer price to farmers” as one of its three objectives.

The other goals of the regulation – brought forward on November 1 last – include: improving the safety, environmental and nutritional quality of products; and promoting a healthy, safe and sustainable diet.

The spokesperson for the Beef Plan Movement also pointed to EU legislation, highlighting that Articles 38 to 44 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) details one of its aims is “to ensure a fair standard of living for farmers”.

By comparison, in Ireland, the representative said that it costs between €4.50/kg to €5.38/kg to produce beef – which is a minimum of 20% higher than the current base price quoted by processors of 3.75/kg.

Gross margin drops of 19% and 11% were recorded in Teagasc estimates for suckler and finishing beef farms respectively compared to 2017, according to the movement.

“Processors and retailers must remember that farmers are not obliged to continue to supply cattle with the current unsustainable returns – the supply chain is only as strong as its weakest link,” the spokesperson stated.

The main retailers in Ireland need to engage with Irish farmers as part of their corporate social responsibility.

“The bottom line is that farmers can’t continue to supply cattle to processors and subsequently retailers with the current unsustainable base price for beef.

“Fair trade needs to begin at home,” the spokesperson concluded.