The final hustings event of the 2020 Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) presidential election was marked by a very frank and sharp discussion concerning the organisation’s ‘zero-representation’ on the board of Bord Bia.

The matter came to light courtesy of a question raised by an ICSA executive member, who pointed out that both the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) and the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA) are both represented on the board of Bord Bia at presidential level.

The two candidates in the ICSA election are: Sean McNamara, from Co. Westmeath, and Dermot Kelleher from west Cork. Both demanded that Bord Bia should treat the ICSA with absolute and total parity of esteem, where the matter of farmer representation on its board of directors is concerned.

Each of the two men also committed to making immediate contact with Bord Bia on the matter, as soon as the the election process is completed. Both were also very critical of what they regard as Bord Bia’s lack of strategic marketing activity on the part of Irish beef and sheep farmers.

New markets

Sean McNamara felt that Bord Bia must do more to open up new markets.

“Saudi Arabia is a case in point. The country should be made a prime target by Bord Bia,” he said.

Dermot Kelleher feels that Bord Bia is too closely aligned with Ireland’s red meat processers. He added:

Bord Bia must come forward with a Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status application for grass fed suckler beef.”

“Dairy beef is an inferior product compared with that produced from suckler cows. The control of the suckler beef PGI should be put into the hands of farmers and their representative bodies.”

McNamara stressed that beef and sheep farmers should set up their own co-op, one which would have control of its own processing factory. He said:

This is the only way of delivering sustainable prices for farmers. We also need to see total transparency within the farming and food chain, with the monies generated at the retail end shared equally between farmers, processers and the supermarkets. This is not happening at the present time.

Kelleher agreed that there must be much more transparency within the farming and food chain with primary producers getting a fair share of the monies coming into the industry at the retail end.

He commented:

“I want to see cattle paid for on the basis of their meat yield. By taking this approach, farmers selling suckler-bred stock will get a better return for those better quality animals they are bringing to market.

Dairy-bred beef is second-class beef. But the prices available for stock do not reflect this difference at the present time.”

McNamara explained that beef and sheep farmers must be allowed to earn a living wage.

“This issue will be the corner stone of my presidency. Beef and sheep farming must be made sustainable. If this is not the case, the animals will begin to disappear from the Irish countryside. If we are not careful, the only place that we might be able to see suckler cows and ewes in future will be the zoo!”, he concluded.