The Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney may well push to have a number of key recommendations agreed at the next meeting of the Beef Roundtable, according to ICSA Beef Chairman Edmond Phelan.

“It really is make or break time,” he said.

“The plants have refused to engage throughout the entire roundtable process. And with the election coming up, the Minister is running out of time to get something positive from the entire roundtable project.

“Coveney took a very proactive approach during the final stages of the Farmers’ Charter negotiations. So I hope he will be in a similar frame of mind next week.”

The next meeting of the roundtable will take place on Tuesday week (July 21). Phelan believes that beef finishers will be on a hiding to nothing in a year or so, once all the extra calves born in Ireland over the past 12 months start to come through as finished animals.

“This is a numbers’ game. The plants will slash the price of cattle, as soon as they get a chance. As long as the processers maintain their margin, they will be happy.”

ICSA has two fundamental planks to its beef policy moving forward: the removal of the 30 month age restriction on in-spec animals and a dynamic live export programme.

“The age restriction should be pushed out to 36 months for steers and heifers,” said Phelan.

“Restrictions of any type are simply used as sticks with which to beat farmers.

“We also need to see as many heavy cattle as possible exported on the hoof from Ireland over the coming months. We should be targeting markets in the UK and the rest of Europe with these animals.

“Beef prices are acceptable at the present time. But farmers must continue to receive sustainable returns. And it’s up to Simon Coveney to ensure this is achieved.”