The concessions made by meat factories during the beef talks have been described as “baby steps” by the Irish Co-operative Organisation Society (ICOS).
The society said that there was “a long distance to go”, but it welcomed the “shift in position” by the factories during the talks, which concluded in the early hours of this morning, Wednesday, August 21.
ICOS particularly welcomed the concession to reduce the residency period for an animal on its previous farm from 70 days to 60 days – but added that the factories had “needed to be dragged reluctantly towards this compromise rather then recognising the illogicality of their position in the first place”.
The shift in position by meat factories as of last night’s industry negotiations is welcome but still represents baby steps in terms of the distance the factories need to go in supporting their direct supply chain and the primary producers who they rely on to underpin their industry.
“In itself, 60 days is still an unproven, unscientific and arbitrary period selected by the factories for their own purposes,” an ICOS statement claimed.
The agreement to extend bonuses, and the widening of the beef assessment grades are “the minimum steps necessary to support the primary production sector”, according to ICOS.
“If people want a beef industry in Ireland, then primary producers and their economic viability must be supported, or there simply won’t be any industry, and the rural and national economy will suffer along with farming families,” said the group’s statement.
According to ICOS, the Quality Payment System (QPS) is “generally dysfunctional”.
“No scientific basis has ever been provided for the introduction of penalties on farmers’ cattle if an animal was moved more than four times or moved within the last 70 days (now to be 60 days). Instead these penalising measures are included by the processors on the spurious basis of quality parameters,” ICOS argued.
Regardless of the necessary grading, citing an animal as being inferior because it simply moves to or from another farm is wrong.
The group claims that: “Rather than enhancing quality, these practices stop free trade in animals even though the livestock are compliant with the relevant regulations in Ireland and the UK.
“This has subverted fair competition for livestock and has distorted trade and pricing,” the statement added.