The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers Association (ICSA) has called for the establishment of a ‘strong beef regulator’, and the winding down of the Beef Taskforce, which it said “has not strengthened the position of the primary producer”.

ICSA beef chair, Edmund Graham, said:

“Existing mechanisms are not delivering fairness for beef farmers, and the only way to level the playing field is with a regulator who is equipped with all the necessary powers and resources.”

“We have seen that Grant Thornton were unable to deliver transparency around the price composition of the total value of an animal – including the fifth quarter – along the supply chain.

“Indeed, it proved to be an impossible task as they simply could not get their hands on the required data.

“Neither processor nor retailer were compelled to cooperate, and therein lies the difficulty. They must not be allowed to shirk their responsibly towards their suppliers any longer,” he said.

Beef regulator must be robust

Competition law too, he said, has been of little benefit and from the ICSA’s discussions with the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC), a “finer instrument than competition law is required when it comes to the beef sector”.

“That instrument must be a regulator who is knowledgeable about the sector, properly resourced, and armed with clear investigative powers.

“They must have the ability to forensically audit the books, and all of this must be backed by robust legislation.”

That duty now lies with Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConlalogue, he said.

“While we believe the Beef Taskforce has now reached the end of its natural life, it must not mark the end of dialogue, particularly when it comes to implementing outstanding agreements – most notably the installation of weigh bridges to facilitate live weights at factories.

“ICSA is proposing a mechanism whereby the minister chairs discussions between the farming organisations and the factory bosses on a regular basis with a view to delivering consistent fair play and a better future for beef farmers.”