Proposals as to how Producer Groups will be formed and operate will be tabled by the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney at the next round of the Beef Forum.

In an interview with Agriland recently, Minister Coveney said that he will have the proposals for the Beef Forum before the summer.

“I think that can really change the dynamic in the beef sector and the relationship between farmers and factories. There is a real lack of trust and friction. There can and should be more understanding and more trust, but the way to do it is to have professional negotiators on price and spec’ as opposed to farmers simply being price takers.”

He said the ideal model, in his opinion, would see the Producer Groups as farmer-owned entities. He also said that they will get support and funding, through the Rural Development Plan.

“This is effectively allowing an organisation use a professional negotiators who understands the industry, collectively putting contracts in place for 800 or 2,000 farmers that are in the best interests of those farmers.

“From the factories point of view they are negotiating with someone who will work with farmers to ensure the farmers are producing animals that are maximising their value and coming to factories at the right age and spec’. It allows the factories get a better quality product for the market.”

The Minister said the setting up of Producer Groups would need all sides of the Beef Forum participants in agreement on their structure.

“We are not going to set up any producer group that does not have the agreement of the Beef Forum participants.” The Producer Groups, he said, will also enhance farming organisations.

“Farming organisations aren’t equipped or allowed to negotiate on price and if they feel their members are not getting a fair deal their only option is to protest and that’s not a good deal for anyone.

“If there is one big strategic thing the Beef Forum does before I am gone as a Minister it’s to try and get a better functioning marketplace between farmers and factories.

“We’re going to try and make it work, but everyone in the beef forum wants it to work.”