The Irish Government must make the European Commission aware that the current income crisis seen in the beef industry is as a result of dairy policy change, IFA’s Angus Woods has said.

Speaking at the recent IFA ‘Beef Challenges 2017’ event, the IFA National Livestock Chairman said there is severe difficulties in the market place and it is caused by a number of factors.

“At the EU level, the problem in the market place is largely caused by the increase in the dairy cull cows coming onto the market.

“And that is caused as a direct response to the dairy income crisis of the last couple of years.

“The EU made a policy decision to do a dairy cow cull, which has resulted in a significant amount of beef coming on the market.

“Cull cows are up 7.6% in the EU and in a market that has got 25m dairy cows, that is a hell of a lot of beef.”

The Wicklow-based farmer also said that the Irish Government needs to go over to Europe and make them recognise that the problem in the beef market is caused directly by European Policy.

“There was a policy decision taken to make this cull of cows.

It has impacted on the beef side of the house and the EU have got to recognise that the problem in the beef sector is caused by direct policy interference in the market place.

Woods added that the Commission needs to accept that the policy change in one area, like the milk reduction scheme, will have a knock on affect in other areas.

Farmers have also be asked to carry the can on Brexit, he said, as the European Commission is choosing to say that Brexit hasn’t happened.

“The financial markets have already made a decision on Brexit.

“The currency has fluctuated because the markets have reacted to what the public in the UK have decided.

“The reality at the moment is that the European Commission is choosing to say that Brexit hasn’t happened,” he said.

Woods also said that an increase in beef output and an increase in exports with no financial return to the farmer is not good enough and he urged the Government to act on this issue.

“It is not sustainable in the long run. We haven’t seen any of the real access to all of these lovely new markets like China and the US.

There has been little or no meat moving in that direction. We need to see real action in that area.

“We need more resources pointed towards the live export game, we all know that live exports are critically important,” he said.

Protest, IFA,

IFA President Joe Healy and IFA Livestock Chairman Angus Woods at an IFA protest in 2016

Beef farming not sustainable at current prices

The IFA National Livestock Chair also said that the Irish beef sector is in a severe crisis and income levels of €12,000-16,000/farm are not sustainable.

“Unless the farmer on the ground doing the work is getting a decent return, he or she is not sustainable. Where current prices are, it is not sustainable.

We are working with unviable prices, the cost of production is rising all the time and there is downward pressure on our Single Farm Payments.

“Even for the farmers doing a really really good job, because of that pressure, the numbers just don’t add up.”

Woods added that Teagasc has made it very clear that beef finishers need 400-450c/kg to breakeven and as a result farmers need a major price increase.

Prices in the UK have moved on dramatically, he said, improving by 40p/kg since last May, which leaves the price gap between Irish and UK beef too big.

We are also now at a point where we are below the EU average price for steers and heifers, this is not where we should be.

“We are producing a high quality product and we need to be doing better in the market place,” he said.