IFA gearing up to launch ‘thorough’ beef sector review

The Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) is set to embark on a “thorough examination” of the beef sector as part of a new review into the sector’s income crisis.

The review – which will be spearheaded by leading national economist Jim Power – will focus on three key areas: the cost of production; price; and direct supports for the sector.

It is understood that the review will be open to contributions and submissions from all stakeholders and representatives within the the sector.

Speaking to AgriLand, Angus Woods, chairman of the IFA’s National Livestock Committee, said supports for the sector under the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) post-2020 will be a top priority for the review.

“All three aspects are under pressure – cost, price and the CAP payments, and that’s what we are working towards.

“One of the first parts we’ll be doing on it will be in relation to CAP reform and the way CAP payments will be structured for the beef sector.

Another focus will be a beef price index which would involve piecing together all the parts to get more transparency in the sector.

“It will be a thorough examination. Price is obviously in a really, really difficult place at the moment; clearly Brexit is having an impact on it.

“The uncertainty caused by not knowing what’s going to happen post the end of March, is a real weight for producers at the moment,” said Woods.

He said the review will be open to all interested parties and individuals.

It will be available to pretty much anyone that wants to feed into it; anyone with clear and hard opinions.

“We are open to take them all into account. It’s a continuation of the ongoing work which we have been doing within the organisation and, as I say, the CAP aspect of it is the first and foremost issue that will be dealt with.”

‘Intervention not ideal’

Woods also mounted further pressure on the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, to reveal full details on supports that would be made available to protect the beef sector in the case of a no-deal Brexit on March 29.

Last week, the EU Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Phil Hogan, assured the minister and the farm lobby group that tools used in previous disturbances – such as BSE and the Russian import ban – would be made available.

These emergency tools include: intervention; aids to private storage; and financial aid through additional direct payments.

However, in light of the ongoing political chaos in Westminster and the Brexit deadline looming large, Woods insists that greater clarity is needed.

“We are looking for the minister to come right out and give us some clarity in terms of what beef finishers face heading into the second part of March and heading on into April.

Farmers need certainty around what instruments are going to be there and, more importantly, what level is it going to go into play at.

The IFA claims that, for each 5c/kg change in cattle prices, farmers would need €20 per head direct payment support.

“Intervention is not the ideal solution either; the last thing we want is large volumes of beef being put into storage.

“We need to make sure is that beef continues to flow onto the UK supermarket shelves and that farmers aren’t being penalised for political interference in what has been, up until now, a normally-functioning market place,” he said.