Farmers slam Department’s Beef Pricewatch as ‘almost irrelevant’

The current structure of the Department Beef Pricewatch is providing almost irrelevant information to farmers and unless it’s radically restructured to reflect the pricing structures that farmers are facing on a daily basis, it will serve no purpose for farmers except to fuel suspicions regarding cattle pricing, according to Michael Guinan, Chairperson of ICMSA’s Livestock Committee.

“The reality today for farmers selling animals is that they will be faced with the absurdly over-complicated beef grid – which is a minefield in itself – but also possible weight limit penalties on price, age limit penalties on price, breed differences on price and quality assurance penalties on price. Pricewatch provides absolutely no clarity or guidance on these issues. Unless the Beef Pricewatch can provide clear information on the various penalties/bonuses being applied by meat processors on a weekly basis, all it will do is confuse and mislead farmers and that’s precisely what it’s  doing at the moment”, said Mr Guinan.

“Meat plants have full information on the animal being supplied by the farmer and it is high time that farmers were given the full information regarding beef prices. Department personnel have access to this information through its price reporting structure in meat plants and this information should be utilised more to make the Beef Pricewatch actually relevant to farmers so that people can actually see the minefield through which farmers have to navigate in order to sell cattle into at this time. At its meeting with the Beef Activation Group, ICMSA had proposed that further information would be provided to farmers through the Department website and we were extremely disappointed that this obviously sensible proposal was not part of the Beef Activation Group recommendations because it is something that the Minister and his Department needs to take action on”, said Mr Guinan.

“The Department Beef PriceWatch at present provides an average price based on the beef grid which given all the other specifications at play is almost irrelevant. In  actual  fact, an average price per grade hides a lot of information and if the Department is serious about providing clear information to farmers, they should at the very minimum provide the range of prices for each grade: that is the maximum and minimum price paid for each grade that week. In addition, the Pricewatch needs to specify exactly what the price quoted refers to in terms of specification and also needs to set out the reductions being applied where animals fall outside the so-called specification. Farmers are faced with a very complex specification and the Department through its PriceWatch needs to provide clear information to farmers surrounding this specification, otherwise, it will be a irrelevant and irritating sideshow” concluded the Livestock Committee Chairperson.