The Irish Farmers Association (IFA) is calling on the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney to call an emergency beef summit involving the meat factories, the IFA, Bord Bia and Teagasc to tackle the crisis developing on cattle prices and farm incomes, particularly for winter finishers and bull beef finishers.
IFA president Eddie Downey said the recent beef price cuts have severely damaged confidence at farm level and he warned Minister Coveney that if cattle prices are not stabilised, the Food Harvest 2020 targets for the €2bn beef and livestock sector will collapse, with major implications for exports and jobs at farm and processing level.
“It is not acceptable to farmers, that Minister Coveney would consider he has no role with the factories on cattle prices”. He said there must be a real link between all the announcements and progress on new and better markets for Irish beef, and viable cattle prices at farm level.
Downey said the collapse in bull beef prices has left winter finishers with serious financial losses. “The impact is very severe at individual farm level, with some finishers facing losses of up to €200 per head.”
The IFA President said it is essential that the factories restore confidence into the beef trade at farm level and make it clear that bull beef prices have bottomed out and will not fall further. In addition, he said the factories have to send a clear signal to their suppliers that the price of In-spec steers and heifers will not come under further attack.
Meanwhile, IFA national livestock chairman Henry Burns said there is real anger and frustration at farm level with the problems on price and particularly not being able to get cattle killed.
According to the IFA: “In 2011 and 2012, factories encouraged farmers to keep their dairy calves for beef and not export them. Farmers responded and now these same farmers cannot get their bulls killed, let alone get a viable price. Farmers feel the factories have reneged on their commitments and feel very let down. He said the strong signal is that dairy calves should be exported live in order to avoid damage to the beef price.”
He said the price cuts on bulls have seriously eroded the beef market with factories undercutting each other on our export markets. In addition, he said confidence at farm level has been eroded and needs to be restored.
“The suckler cow herd is under major threat and much tighter specifications on bulls in respect of age, weight and price will threaten numbers in the future. Winter finishing and year-round beef production to service the higher priced retail contracts is also under pressure,” the IFA state.
Burns pointed out that the beef price crisis on bulls has major implications for the Food Harvest 2020 beef targets, exports and jobs involved in the beef sector.
The IFA livestock man said the price cuts must stop and factories must stabilise the market situation. “Winter finishers have been hit with severe losses and they need to get cattle killed and especially bulls before any specification cuts are imposed,” he added.