Meat plants must amend the ‘specification for cows’

Meat plants should alter the specification for cows or amend the penalties, according to the chairperson of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association’s (ICMSA’s) Livestock Committee, Des Morrison.

With many farmers facing a serious crisis in terms of feeding their animals in the upcoming winter, there is a responsibility on meat processors to assist their suppliers through this extremely difficult period, he added.

The ICMSA stated that a person only has to examine the prices paid – as published by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine on a weekly basis – to understand the serious financial hit that farmers are taking, with prices reportedly as low as 112c/kg paid for some cows.

While acknowledging that some cows may not be finished to market specification given the drought conditions, no one believes that cows should be priced at such levels, Morrison said.

He outlined that the ICMSA firmly believes that meat plants “need to step up and pay a price that reflects markets returns, that includes the fifth quarter return that has improved substantially in recent years”.

Continuing, he said: “If the fifth quarter price is under pressure – as claimed by the meat plants – then they should produce the market data to back up this assertion. It is simply not good enough to make claims that are not backed up with facts.

“The reality for some farmers is that to provide meat plants with well-conditioned cattle for the rest of this year and into 2019, a level of destocking has to take place now and the penalties being imposed on some of these cows are completely beyond reason – in particular given the current circumstances.

Loyal suppliers over many years are getting hammered on prices and, in particular, on the specification being imposed by meat plants; that is resulting in prices being significantly below the base prices quoted.

Concluding, Morrison called on meat plants to show a level of commitment to loyal suppliers by eliminating such penalties in the current circumstances and to allow farmers to destock where required.

“Farmers are under enormous pressure and our meat plants should immediately step up to the mark in supporting them – which they have completely failed to do to date,” he said.