So-called beef factory “opportunism” to reduce beef price, at a time when Bord Bia’s Export Benchmark Price shows market conditions to be steady, has been described as “unacceptable”.

In a statement issued today (Friday, October 7) the Irish Farmers’ Association’s (IFA’s) livestock chairperson Brendan Golden said: “The continual price pressure exerted by factories over the past number of weeks has now dropped Irish beef price to 28c/kg below the benchmark price.

The IFA livestock chair commented: “This behaviour from factories is irresponsible and opportunistic, given the challenges beef farmers face.

“Factories and retailers are acutely aware of the production costs on farms which have again been verified by the most recent Teagasc Situation and Outlook report.”

The report shows input costs increasing by 29% and Family Farm Income (FFI) decreasing by €20/ha as a result of “market failure to return these increased costs”.

He said there is capacity in the market place for higher beef prices and factories “must close the gap with the Bord Bia Prime Export Benchmark price”.

Looking at the medium term, the IFA livestock chairperson said factories must provide “minimum price guarantees for winter finishers”.

“Throughout this year, IFA highlighted the need directly to the factories to provide winter finishers with some certainty as investments are made in feeding cattle for the most expensive period of the year.”

He said finishing cattle over the winter months will cost on average €6/kg based on Teagasc costings.  This equates to a €2,400 investment in a 400kg carcass.

“Beef finishers do not have the capacity to take on this level of risk without a minimum price guarantee from the market place,” Golden remarked.

“Farmers who are considering finishing cattle over the winter into next spring should demand price guarantees before committing to the level of investment required.”

Beef support payments

Golden also said that farmers have been left “very frustrated” at the failure of the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue to put “meaningful supports” in place for winter finishers.

He commented: “The IFA has consistently called for the provision of a rearing and finishing payment of €100/head for beef farmers.

“The minister refused to include such a scheme in the CAP Strategic Plan, has not provided for one in Budget 2023, and is effectively leaving beef farmers to fend for themselves as we face into our most expensive production period.”

He recognised the advance payment announced for next year’s fodder scheme, but said that beef farmers need “immediate direct support” for the cost of meal and other inputs associated with this finishing period.

Golden called Minister McConalogue to come forward with supports for farmers feeding animals over the winter months to offset “the unprecedented costs faced by beef farmers in order to maintain their production systems”.