Comment: With young bull prices still in the doldrums and the threat of Brazilian beef imports now hanging over the Irish beef industry, one is forced to ask the question: what has happened to the boat promised by IFA President Eddie Downey, which would be used to open up new live export opportunities for Irish beef farmers?

The commitment was made on the night of the organisation’s recent AGM and was warmly received by those in attendance on the evening in question.

Ask any banker at the present time about the prospects for agriculture and the conversation will follow an upward trend – until the subject of beef production is broached. The reality is that the banking fraternity know full well that beef finishers bought stores last back end at very strong prices. However, a few short months later finished cattle prices have not strengthened, while feed costs have not reduced by the levels expected last harvest. Add in the catastrophe, which best describes the situation currently facing those producers with young bulls, and it should come as no surprise that the ‘number crunchers’ are now expressing concern with regard to the future prospects for beef production in Ireland.

And, of course, it was in the context of the young bulls scenario that Eddie Downey made the commitment to provide finishers with additional live outlets for their stock.

The premise of this article is not to have a dig at Eddie Downey: its purpose is to highlight the dire need for Irish beef farmers to have access to as many markets as possible when it comes to selling their animals. Increased competition for stock will have one inevitable outcome – a strengthening of producer returns.

Obviously, not every finisher can sell in the live market – the current regulations act to ensure that farmers locked up with TB must sell on the hook only. But that aside, there is still a requirement on the part of the beef industry to secure all possible outlets for Irish cattle.

The Irish Farmers Association is the largest producer organisation in this country. Its sole purpose is to provide local agriculture with a voice that can be heard in both a commercial and political context. So, given that its newly elected President Eddie Downey highlighted all of the aforementioned issues courtesy of his inauguration speech – and then proffered a solution which gave direct hope to so many farmers caught with young bulls, AgriLand has every right to ask the question:  what happened to the boat promised as an additional live shipping option for Irish cattle farmers?