Beef processors have been told that they must “bring real offers to the table if they want to resume business” by the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA).

Edmond Phelan, the association’s president, said that price was the key issue for the ICSA during the beef talks that are scheduled for Monday, September 9 – along with the 30-month rule, beef grid issues and overall price transparency.

“[The processors] have completely forgotten that if farmers can’t make a profit, there will be not future for their business either,” he said.

We expect the meat industry to engage on the premise that prices are unsustainably low and all mechanisms through which a sustainable beef price can be achieved must be explored. Current beef price means that every system of beef farming is losing money.

Phelan contended that the 30-month rule is “merely a racket to keep farmers down” and that it should be abolished.

“This has been exposed now with the statements by Supermacs and by Lidl that 30 months is not an issue for their consumers,” added the ICSA president.

Turning the cross hairs on the 70-day rule, Phelan said that it was a “device to undermine free trade at livestock marts”, and called on the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) to investigate the rule as an anti-competitive measure.

ICSA will also be insisting that the suckler herd needs a better bonus for U grade cattle. Factories have made a killing from the grid over many years but, especially with the increase in dairy stock, some of this money must be returned in the form of better bonuses at the top end of the grid.

“We also want to see a plan to deliver stability and profitability to bull beef,” he added.

Food chain transparency

The ICSA is also saying that it will also seek “transparency” and “openness” on “who makes what” in the food chain, particularly in relation to the ‘fifth quarter’.

As well as that, “an accurate assessment of how much the farmer gets from the retail sales of beef” – carried out at an EU level – should also be implemented across Europe, according to Phelan.

This is not just an Irish problem. Across Europe, there are demands that farmers must get a fair price to reflect their costs of production.

He is also suggesting that a “promotional fund” is necessary for beef to counteract both market difficulties and “bad press” where health, climate change, and veganism are concerned.

Phelan concluded his remarks by saying that beef processors, Government and the EU are not doing enough to counter “the hostile commentary”.