‘Frustrating end to beef talks as feedlots benefit’ – ICSA

Big feedlots will see benefits by the agreed inclusion of O- grades in the criteria for the in-spec bonus arising from the beef talks, according to the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA).

Edmond Phelan, the association’s president, bemoaned the “frustrating end” to the talks, which he said would not add any additional money to farmers’ pockets.

“While the in-spec bonus has been widened to include 4+ fat scores, the inclusion of O- grades will benefit the big feedlots most and do nothing to improve the lot of suckler farmers producing the top-quality cattle,” Phelan claimed.

Our hands were tied regarding price from the outset. We could negotiate, but not on price, and when price is the only thing that really matters, that was problematic.

He argued that the progress and agreements that were reached on several issues will not have “the sort of impact required to make the difference needed”.

“Our efforts will now move to the review of the grid, which is scheduled to be completed by the end of September. The priority must be to reconfigure the grid in such a way that it gives better bonuses to U and R+ grades without further deductions on lower grade cattle,” Phelan stressed.

He added that the commitment that was given to improving market transparency “must proceed with haste”.

The promised transposition of the EU Directive on Unfair Trading Practices is an important step on the road in curtailing the greedy practices and excessive profiteering at retail level.

“However, we need to follow this with legislation to audit the whole retail chain and discern whether there is a fair share of margins allocated to all parts of the chain,” Phelan concluded.

In-spec bonus

As part of the talks, industry representatives committed to reduce the 70-days residency period for an animal on the previous farm to 60 days; and to broaden the in-spec bonus criteria to cover O- conformation and 4+ fat class for steers and heifers.

There is general agreement between farming organisations that, while there has been some progress, further work is needed.