MII’s Healy criticised for apparent ‘threat’ over testing delay impact on prices

The senior director for Meat Industry Ireland (MII) has come in for criticism for allegedly implying that delays in receiving Covid-19 test results for meat factory staff might have a negative impact on the prices paid by processors to farmers.

Speaking yesterday at the Oireachtas Special Committee on Covid-19 Response, MII’s Cormac Healy said – in response to Laois-Offaly TD Carol Nolan – that “if there is a delay in getting results during this four-week period [of testing] which leads to obstruction or disruption of production in facilities, and an inability to supply markets, that could have an impact”.

In response to this, the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) has referred to Healy’s comment as a “threat”.

Edmund Graham, the association’s beef chairperson, commented: “Farmers are used to processors using any excuse in the book to cut prices, but there is no reason why disruption caused by testing delays should lead to price cuts.

We know that consumer demand hasn’t dropped and that most factories complain about having surplus capacity. The slack could therefore easily be taken up by factories where testing has been completed without imposing further hardship on farmers.

“This was an opportunity for processors to show some solidarity with their suppliers but instead they just threatened to undermine their livelihoods yet again,” Graham claimed.

He argued: “Farmers have again been put into the most vulnerable of positions which once more highlights the need for a regulator with full powers to examine the practices of meat plants. Retailers too must be called to task for their cheap food policies and continuous discounting of basic foods such as meat and vegetables.

“Excess profiteering by processors and retailers at the expense of primary producers must be stopped. The time has come for farmers to receive their fair share of the final retail price and all measures to ensure this happens must be put in place,” Graham concluded.