In a sometimes heated exchange, involving a small group of people and IFA Livestock Chairman Henry Burns, which took place outside the organisation’s stand on Day Three of the Ploughing Championships, the Co. Laois farmer defended the actions that had been taken by the IFA to secure stronger beef prices over the past number of months.

“Key to our strategy all along has been to secure the maximum number of possible outlets for Irish cattle. And this is beginning to bear fruit. Live exports are on the up. Thirty cattle lorries left Ireland last week, heading for Italy and Spain.

“The prospect of cheap grain is making the importation of high-quality weanlings from Ireland very attractive for beef finishers in both those countries. There is also an expectation that the all-island beef labelling initiative announced this week by Ministers will boost cross border cattle movements from the West of Ireland over the coming weeks.

“Of course, all of this is wholly dependent on Tesco signing up to the proposals that are now on the table. But we would be hopeful of this being the case.

Reviewing the to-ing and fro-ing within the beef sector over the past nine months, Henry Burns claimed that trust between processors and primary producers had totally broken down.

“This is why Minister Coveney must play such a key role in driving forward change within the beef industry. But the Minister does not seem to be listening to the voice of farmers at the present time. The meat factories must be told that their strategy of continuously introducing changes to the cattle specification requirements are both impracticable and totally needless. And it’s the Minister’s job to do this.

“Yes cattle prices may well strengthen over the coming weeks. But we must learn the lessons of the last few months. And that means Simon Coveney fronting up to the factories and telling them clearly that they must deliver for farmers.”