The initial findings of a comprehensive evaluation of the Irish beef sector in an independent report by Grant Thornton have shown that farmers receive 80% of total sales revenue earned by processors, according to Meat Industry Ireland (MII).

The findings were presented at yesterday’s Beef Market Taskforce meeting and were welcomed by MII members for what they describe as “exposing the false claims made during the 2019 beef blockades”.

The report was commissioned by the government in the aftermath of the 2019 beef protests.

“During those blockades, false assertions were made and prominently circulated that farmers only get €2 for every €10 spent on beef by a consumer.

Grant Thornton’s findings provide independent third-party evidence that farmers receive 80% of the revenue that processors generate in the market.

Food ombudsman

MII has also called for an acceleration of plans to appoint a food ombudsman which was a commitment in the Programme for Government.

MII has said that it’s “fully committed” to working with a food ombudsman in addressing the type of issues that have given rise to “contested claims” in recent years.

Senior director for MII, Cormac Healy, said: “We welcome the Grant Thornton exercise as it provides independent expert confirmation that farmers receive 80% of the sales revenue processors generate from the sale of beef.

We hope that the sector can now move on and instead work together to address the challenges we face from issues like Brexit, climate change and EU trade deals.

“MII members also welcome the appointment of a food ombudsman to act as an honest broker in addressing concerns in future through dialogue rather than factory blockades.”

Beef prices

MII added that the industry “continues to deliver market price returns to producers that are at or above the export benchmark price (introduced as part of the Beef Sector Agreement) which reflects the cattle prices paid in our key export markets”.

In 2020, despite major market disruption caused by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, Bord Bia reported Irish prime cattle price was 356c/kg (excluding VAT) and the export benchmark price was 355c/kg.

MII said that these prices were paid “even though we export 90% of our beef and face the additional costs of getting to market, which have been further inflated since Brexit”.

The industry representative group added that in terms of current market developments, increased sales through retail have helped, but not enough to offset the collapse in sales through restaurants and foodservice.

“The overall proportion of Irish beef that goes to the retail channel is far less than for domestic beef production in the markets that we are selling into. As the major exporters, we are therefore more exposed,” MII continued.

MII has welcomed the other reports conducted by Grant Thornton particularly the report on the processor-producer procurement specification requirements for Irish beef.

“Their report confirms the higher customer and consumer demand across all markets for beef that adheres to the current suite of specifications,” MII concluded.