Beef regulator ‘has merit’ – if given powers to set minimum prices

A sector-specific body to regulate the beef sector has merit – but only if it has sufficient powers to address “fundamental problems that are undermining the sector”, according to the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA).

This would include the power to set minimum and maximum prices, similar to the energy sector, according to the organisation.

ICMSA president Pat McCormack commented on the submission by the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) to the Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and Marine in relation to the beef sector last week.

The president said that the proposal from the CCPC regarding a sector-specific body to regulate the beef sector certainly has merit – if given the powers to tackle such problems – with the key problem being inadequate price being paid to farmers for their cattle.

McCormack said that every debate around this issue pointed directly back to the inability of farmers to make a realistic margin for their produce.

He said that the ICMSA is “not averse” to an all-encompassing body that would look at all the issues feeding into the present demoralised state of the beef sector – but added that such a development would have to include the question of minimum and maximum prices.

The lack of these, he said, are the starting point for many of the sector’s problems.

“Farmers are seeing more and more demands being imposed on them; and the reality is that farmers cannot be expected to meet the financial costs of these increasing demands without an improved return from the marketplace.

A sector-specific body would have to be given powers in relation to setting minimum and maximum prices – as seen in the energy sector, for example.

“Otherwise it could simply turn into another useless quango or talking shop of the type that, we regret to say, the Beef Forum became.”

McCormack said that, if people are serious about discussing the problems in the beef sector, all of the problems need to be up for debate.

The top of the list, as far as we’re concerned, is the inability or unwillingness of the system to provide any kind of realistic returns to the farmers on whom the whole multi-billion euro sector actually rests.

The CCPC proposal deserves consideration, but it must have real power and a real determination to look at all the problems starting with who’s getting what out of the vast amounts of swirling around the sector,” McCormack concluded.