Comments linking Covid-19 test times and beef price prove contentious

Comments by Meat Industry Ireland (MII) in the Oireachtas Special Committee on Covid-19 Response that delays in Covid-19 testing could impact prices paid to farmers were “inflammatory and wrong”, according to the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA).

Speaking at the committee yesterday, Thursday, August 13, Cormac Healy, director of MII, was responding to a question from independent TD for Laois-Offaly Carol Nolan on the efforts MII is making to “ensure farmers will not return to the position in which they were in last year” when he said:

“The public health guidance that has been given to us is that we should do this four-week stint to establish a picture of what is happening and to show the level of incidence.

“We will work with that programme just as companies have worked with local control teams. We do, however, want to see it underpinned with quick results.

If the deputy [Nolan] wants to link the issue with price, if there is a delay in getting results during this four-week period which leads to the obstruction or disruption of production in facilities and an inability to supply markets, that could have an impact.

“Our aim, however, is to make sure this testing is done and that production can be maintained,” Healy said.

Reacting to Healy’s comments, IFA president Tim Cullinan said: “While it is clear that we need quicker Covid-19 test results, to link this with prices to farmers is unacceptable.

“This is typical of the factories. They will use any excuse to cut prices to farmers,” he said.

“Public health has to be the priority at all times, but farmers have been working around the clock to keep the food supply chain open,” he said.

“They are already struggling to make ends meet and this threat by MII at yesterday’s Oireachtas Committee hearing is unacceptable.

It’s important that we keep the supply chain open, but it cannot be done by passing costs back to farmers.

“The beef barons will have to take less profits in 2020, rather than playing workers off against farmers,” he said.