A number of technical changes in the beef sector resulting from the recent talks have been described as “having the potential to improve the situation for individual farmers in a small way”.

Commenting on the conclusion of the beef crisis talks, the president of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA), Pat McCormack, has said he was “disappointed there was no positive news in relation to the price of beef arising from the talks”.

He noted: “At the end of the day, the whole purpose of these talks was to improve the income situation of beef farmers.”

However, McCormack did welcome some of the technical changes to be implemented saying: “Anything that bit-by-bit begins the process of reforming that system is beneficial to farmers.

If the only thing that the talks achieved was the public signal that the present system is itself ‘out-of-spec’ then the exercise was worthwhile.

“ICMSA will work and wait to see how the changes proposed will work their way through; but we don’t think that all the answers are here.

“One question we want answered is why we still don’t have all cattle coming off a quality assured farm automatically qualify for the QA bonus?

“The real nub of the matter in beef – as in milk, incidentally – is the question of transparency in margins and share of final retail price and that is where this is going to go.

Until factories and retailers believe someone is going to step in and legislate on margins, then they are going to grab more for themselves and that will be at the continuing expense of the farmer primary-producer.

“The likelihood is that the decisive move on this front will originate at EU level and ‘hurry the day’,” the ICMSA president stressed.

Concluding, McCormack added: “That doesn’t mean the Irish Government should just stand back and wring their hands while blatant unfair trading practices take place every day in every supermarket in the state.”