Formal letter to beef taskforce calling for more ‘urgency’
The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) has written to the chairman of the Beef Market Taskforce to demand more urgency in delivering the Irish Beef Sector Agreement and to insist that the current threats to the beef farming sector are dealt with.
According to ICSA beef chairman Edmund Graham, farmers are increasingly frustrated that the beef taskforce has not delivered fast enough.
“Beef price is unacceptably low and ICSA wants to see the meat industry explain why prices have fallen so far behind UK prices, particularly in the second half of 2020.
We now have a gap of 60c/kg between Irish and British prices for steers. It is also clear that in the second half of 2020, Irish beef price has fallen back compared to the prime export benchmark, which measures a basket of EU export destinations.
Graham also outlined frustration that the beef taskforce has “effectively ignored” the Brexit challenge.
“We are barely a month away from a potential Brexit catastrophe, yet it has scarcely been discussed at the taskforce in the last six months.
“Even if we avoid the worst no trade deal outcome, there is a lot at stake in terms of efficiently exporting our product with minimum disruption. Winter finishers are being asked to take an enormous gamble, yet the meat industry is providing zero guidance on the various scenarios that are now foreseeable,” he added.
The ICSA has also complained that the targets set out in the beef agreement of 2019 are now slipping further behind.
“The PGI [Protected Geographical Indication] question has dominated discussions in recent months. However, there is no excuse for the fact that the independent reports on customer and market requirements; the price composition of the total value of the animal and the comprehensive review of the quality payment grid have stalled,” Graham said.
ICSA is also annoyed that little detail has emerged on the Food Ombudsman, notwithstanding the fact provision was made for it in the recent budget.
The association is also demanding that the meat industry explains why it is “dragging its feet” on the commitment made more than a year ago to install live weighing scales in factories.
“ICSA is calling on the chair of the beef taskforce to ramp up the ambition and to inject a new sense of urgency into the taskforce. We have lost too much time struggling to adapt to Covid-19,” added the committee chairperson.
“We need monthly meetings to get back on track and the consultants and Teagasc need to deliver on commitments. We want to see robust debates about the benefits of the Chinese market compared to the challenges faced. We also want to see more clarity around the threats and opportunities posed by Covid-19.
“I cannot emphasise strongly enough that the beef taskforce cannot be seen to fail. But I am increasingly struggling to convince farmers that it is working as well as it should and ICSA is calling for efforts to be ramped up in the coming months,” concluded Graham.