The agreements from the Beef Forum around the basis for determining that price, is something that farmers will have got a lot of reassurance from, the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney has said.

“I think it’s easy to say when we’ve been through a difficult period that there is no hope for the future. Beef prices are actually strengthening at the moment and for the past three weeks beef prices have increased.”

Minister Coveney said that within every sector in agriculture, there will be difficulty in pricing. “That’s the sector you always hear most from as that’s the sector that is lobbying the most for obvious reasons. We haven’t heard anything negative from dairy farmers about dairy prices for the last two years as dairy prices have been very strong for the last two years.

“That’s probably about to change as dairy prices are falling and we will have to manage that for the next six or eight months.

Minister Coveney said that the reality is that four years ago when Food Harvest 2020 strategy was drawn up, the target was that the value of beef exports would increase by 20% and already the value of beef exports has increased by 40% – double the original target. “We do have the capacity to grow, but there will be challenging sectors and challenging times and we have to find a way of supporting and getting people through those difficult years.”

Volatility will always be an issue when selling into world markets, he said, but Ireland has had two very good years in the dairy sector and the next six months will be challenging, but the next few years will see strong dairy prices on average.

“It’s the same on beef. Last year on beef we had an all-time high with prices, but no one is talking about that. This year we had 11.5% drop on average on beef prices and people are talking about a crisis, but it’s coming from an all-time high.”

The only way to judge the food industry, Minister Coveney said, is to judge it over four to six years so you can see trends. “The trends are very clear in the agri-food sectory, its about growth and value. Farm incomes are improving. That’s why we have more and more interest in agriculture as a career. I’m being lobbied heavily to provide more agricultural education.

“This industry is moving in the right direction. There will be pressures on different sectors but the overall trend is good,” Coveney said.