The Beef Plan Movement has sent a letter to Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, stating its rejection of the conclusions reached at the recent beef stakeholder talks and claiming that Bord Bia’s performance during the discussions “effectively discredited” the agency in the eyes of Beef Plan members.

The letter, seen by AgriLand, was written by Beef Plan negotiator and western regional chairman Eoin Donnelly, and rejected the talks based on the “lack of progress on outstanding issues”, namely the 30-month age limit, four-movement limit and 70-day single farm residency prior to slaughter.

The letter acknowledges Minister Creed’s request for a proposal to suggest additional progress on the current situation, as well as the work done to date in talks but criticises Meat Industry Ireland’s (MII) “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed” approach, stating that this “undermined the progress made”.

“The entrenched position of MII on these points suggests that further engagement with them will be of little benefit as this time – even under your direct involvement.”

‘Lack of transparency’

Moving the sights to Bord Bia, the Beef Plan Movement’s letter states:

“The lack of transparency afforded to the meeting by Bord Bia by not disclosing the companies and positions held by the people that declared that these ‘retail specifications’ are legitimate and therefore must be enforced by the processors did little to instill confidence that an impartial and fair assessment of the market had been completed.

“Bord Bia emphasising in the meeting that all Irish retailers require under 30-month beef when we have written confirmation from the head of communication, Lidl Ireland and Northern Ireland, that animals up to 36 months and Bord Bia QA certification with no extra requirements is required by them, coupled with the knowledge that MII provided a significant amount of information presented by Bord Bia, has effectively discredited them in the eyes of our members.

Any further contributions from Bord Bia will have no standing with our members.

“We suggest that the only way to make progress is to ensure that there is full and open disclosure on the retail specification that processors are being asked to enforce on farmers.”

Continuing, the letter recommended that all Irish retailers and significant Irish-based fast food outlets purchasing large volumes of Irish beef be asked to publicly declare their specification requirements on age, movement and residency, as well as their reasoning behind such requirements.

“Unless there is what would be considered by a reasonable person to be a rational and plausible reason for the specification, it will be considered by our members as nothing more than an unfair trading practice.

“It should be clearly stated at the outset that no commercial information will be asked so that there is no reluctance by companies to participate in the exercise.

Recognising that there will be somewhat limited influence over non-Irish retailers and fast food outlets the same clarity on specification should be asked of these companies.

“In the event that a response is not forthcoming this position should also be made known,” the letter highlighted.

Consumers paying the same

The Beef Plan Movement highlighted that, while talks were held, consumers are “paying the same or more for beef as this time last year while farmers are being paid considerably less”.

“We strongly contest the excessive profiteering taking place at present by either processors or retailers (or both).”

On another point, the Beef Plan appeared to rule out the usefulness of talks “with all other farm organisations” on current issues highlighted.

“Participation in another round of talks with all other farm organisations where some of those organisations are intent on talking about price per kilogram which we fully acknowledge is not within your legal remit to do so will only frustrate all parties in our opinion and therefore we do not recommend this course of action.

The only time such a meeting with other farm organisations would be of value is if you were to discuss and propose an additional aid package on top of what was announced earlier this year.

“Our position is that industry reform is needed and handouts of this nature while a welcome short-term measure is not the long-term solution we are looking for.

“Finally, and on a separate matter, can I ask that you clarify the reason why in advance of the recent round-table talks you proposed that the legal proceedings against our organisation be simply suspended and not withdrawn as we had proposed in our submission to you,” Donnelly concluded.