Meat Industry Ireland (MII), which represents the meat factories, has set out its response to the Dowling Report. Here are its main points.

QPS – The QPS was introduced in 2010 by agreement with IFA, following a number of Government led expert reports that highlighted the need for a quality based payment system that rewarded efficient producers and in particular underpinned the production from the suckler cow herd. The QPS remains at the heart of the payment system for beef animals. MII analysis indicates that the QPS system has delivered additional price returns in excess of €100 million euro per annum since 2010 to the progeny from the suckler herd compared to the flat price based system in place up to then.
Transparency – MII members are committed to improving their remittance documents to provide further information and clarity, including factors which contributed to the determination of the final price paid. Clearly this will help to identify the benefits of achieving target specifications and the cost of not doing so. The structure and format of the current remittance documents vary across members with some documents providing more information than others. MII members have already commenced a process of amending their administrative systems to add further clarification and information to these documents and these improvements will be rolled out as soon as possible
Carcase Weights – The carcase weight criteria, in particular, have come in for much unjustified adverse comment. MII again highlights that:

• Carcases up to 380kg are the desired product for premium markets;
• Carcases above 380kg have, and will continue to have, a market outlet, though not necessarily a premium market outlet;
• Carcases up to 400kg are not being penalised;
• It is now proposed that for the period up to 31st March 2015, industry will, in line with its commitment following its meeting with Minister Coveney, exercise further flexibility on weight ,given the concerns expressed about heavy carcases, which account for only a small proportion of overall cattle output.
• Weight flexibilities will be dealt with on a plant by plant basis and producers of heavy animals should engage early and directly with processors to establish the opportunity and best timing for marketing such animals.

Winter Finishing – The Dowling report suggested that consideration be given to modulating the In-spec bonus to take account of seasonal factors such the additional costs associated with winter finishing. Industry will continue to analyse this proposal and other measures that might support and maintain the current supply pattern recognising that any return to more seasonal, solely grass-based production would undermine our capability to service high value European fresh beef customers. MII proposes that a cross-stakeholder group comprising producers, processors, feed mills and banks be established to look at possible ways to reduce risks involved in winter finishing.
Increase use of Contracts– In the shorter term it is felt that the wider use of contracts represents the most appropriate method of providing some guarantee to winter finishers. Companies are committed to working closely with their supply base to outline the various types of contracts that may be available”.