Intensive talks on cattle specifications are to take place over the coming weeks, as the latest Beef Roundtable talks wound up tonight.
At the Minister’s request, farm groups and processors have now agreed to engage in intensive discussions over the next two weeks on the commercial issues in dispute, under an independent chair, Michael Dowling.
Earlier today, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine said he was not sure if the IFA’s recent 24-hour protest outside beef processors would help or hinder the situation and at today’s Beef Roundtable he appealed for calm among the various stakeholders to allow meaningful engagement.
The Minister also told the stakeholders that he would move to legislate for producer groups.
The issue of price dominated today’s discussions, even though the Minister has consistently said he cannot set the price.
Eddie Punch of the ICSA said the Minister had acceded to the ICSA request that the retailers be included in the discussions. For the first time the round table included an exchange of views with the buyers of Tesco and McDonalds, who together are the biggest buyers of Irish beef, both by volume and value.
“We have got to get rid of the 30 month cut off, it’s unacceptable. The weight limits for bull beef are ridiculous.”
IFA Beef Chairman Henry Burns said every excuse is being put up as to why profits cannot be passed back to farmers from the processors. However, he said that the IFA would be ‘taking the temperature’ from farmers who protested earlier this week when looking at its next strategy.
The Minster said he also secured a strong endorsement from all stakeholders for the establishment of farmer owned Producer Organisations in the beef sector, to help to rebalance negotiating power along.
“I updated the group today on the outcome of my Department’s public consultation exercise and emphasised that I am anxious to progress this matter as quickly as I can. My Department will now move to engaging directly with stakeholders on putting in place the required framework for Producer Organisations to develop.”
The Minister went on to say that he is fully aware that beef farmers have had a challenging year having seen reduced prices for their animals compared to this time last year. “I welcome the honest exchange of views between stakeholders today. There are areas of disagreement between stakeholders in the sector right now, but this simply reinforces the need for constructive dialogue on issues of strategic importance.
“This evening, I have secured agreement from the stakeholders to engage intensively on the commercial issues in dispute, and I have agreed to hold another meeting of the forum in two weeks time.”
November 12 has been set at the next meeting.