The Oireachtas Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine was yesterday told that urgent collective action was required stem the crisis in the beef industry.
Committee Chairman Andrew Doyle said: “The committee heard the three main farming organisations and the Irish Co-operative Organisation Society paint a worrying picture about the current crisis in the beef industry. We were told that price cuts and specification changes by processors/retailers have placed winter finishers and bull beef finishers under serious financial strain. We also heard from representatives Ibec’s Meat Industry Ireland who outlined their perspectives on the beef sector.
“As a committee, we are acutely aware of the urgency of the situation and are committed to providing a space for all grievances to be aired. The committee heard that overcoming obstacles in the trade of Irish beef in Northern Ireland and Britain was key to fostering the competition necessary to ensure a margin for Irish farmers. Beef exports from Ireland, both processed and live, are considered to be of the highest quality in other European countries, produced to the highest standards and fully traceable. The committee takes on board the argument that market barriers hindering trade with the Northern Ireland and Britain may be in breach of the EU freedom of movement of goods principle.
Deputy Doyle continued: “From our wide-ranging work on the Grocery Goods sector, the committee is concerned that a lack of transparency is at the root of the crisis. We also acknowledge the complaint by farmers that access by processors to Department of Agriculture AIM data on individual farms is a cause of concern, and that further investigation may be warranted on whether it breaches data protection principles.
“The committee is deeply concerned of the threat now posed to Ireland’s €2bn beef industry and the risk to our ambitious Food Harvest 2020 targets. It is an absolute imperative that all stakeholders in this vital sector work collaboratively in ensuring a viable market and margin exists for all parties in the supply chain.”