The Irish Farmers Association (IFA) is calling on Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney, to bring in the meat factories and challenge them on their commitment to paying a viable cattle price to farmers.

President Eddie Downey has warned that if cattle prices are not stabilised, the current crisis has the potential to totally derail the Food Harvest 2020 plan for the €2bn beef and livestock sector.

“It is not acceptable to farmers that Minister Coveney would consider he has no role with the factories on cattle prices.”

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.

IFA national livestock chairman Henry Burns said in 2011 and 2012, factories encouraged farmers to keep their dairy calves for beef and not export them.

According to the IFA, 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, it stressed.

Burns 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 and that confidence at farm level has been eroded and needs to be restored.

The IFA livestock leader 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.

Pictured IFA president Eddie Downey at an IFA beef price protest in Clonee last week