Letter to the editor: Trust is broken in beef sector

I would like to bring to your attention the recent press release that the Beef Plan Movement circulated following discussion of the Grant Thornton Report at the Beef Market Taskforce meeting last week.

Anger and frustration is being felt by several of the stakeholders. It is a representation of the anger, which was felt by farmers, during the beef factory protests in late summer 2019.

Resolution was achieved with the Irish Beef Sector Agreement signed by all stakeholders. This was proposed as a forum to create a partnership, to further the beef industry, for all partners, farmers, processors and retailers.

Beef sector agreement

‘A Beef Market Taskforce will be established to provide leadership to develop a sustainable pathway for the future of the beef sector in terms of economic, environmental and social sustainability’ – Irish Beef Sector Agreement, September 15, 2019, DAFM [Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine].

This offered a sense of hope to farmers and their families, that together, we could shape our industry for the future. This required a different way of thinking and doing business to the way it was done before.

I pose the following question: are the existing bodies – farm organisations, processors and the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine, that sit at the taskforce, happy with continuing the current status quo? The taskforce still offers hope.

I’m not happy, as a farmer and like many other farmers. Our industry must change; the way we shape and form policy must change; to stand still we are going backwards.

We, as farmers, expect the hard questions to be asked and discussed. To rebuild trust and support in our beef industry is hard and will be hard, but we must not be afraid to ask the tough questions.

Remember trust is broken for a long time in our industry, it should not be farmer against processor or vice versa. I believe that farmers and processors, working together, can deliver for all. This can only serve to rebuild a better beef industry for both farmer and processor. Remember teamwork works.

From Francis Bourke, Co. Tipperary.