The next meeting of the Beef Roundtable looks set to be a lively affair and a range of issues will be discussed by industry bodies.

Stakeholders, including the Department of Agriculture, Meat Industry Ireland, beef processors and farmer representative bodies will attend this forum on December 16.

This forum, chaired by the Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney, is likely to cover a wide range of topics from carcass specification to the price differential between beef produced in Ireland and the UK.

Here are some of the likely topics to be on the agenda:
  • Open and transparent systems of determining beef price
  • The price differential between Irish and UK beef
  • Carcass weight and age limitations of prime cattle
  • Have the additional exports to the US benefited Irish farmers?
  • Possibility of reviewing the pricing grid
  • Improving the Department’s controls on carcass trim and classification
  • Resolving labeling issues
  • Quality assurance and maintaining our national suckler cow herd

According to the Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney, the Beef Roundtable was established to allow for the open discussions between industry, farming organisations and others.

To date, he said, that the forum has met on six occasions and has agreed to a broad range of outcomes in areas such as weight and age specifications, the Quality Payment system and live exports.

However, he added, that price and market specifications are matters to be determined solely between the purchasers and the sellers of cattle.

Prices paid for cattle are determined by supply and demand market dynamics and by a range of other factors such as disposable income, consumer preferences and competition from other meats.

“As with any Minister for Agriculture in the EU, I can have no role in influencing commodity prices in Ireland,” he said.

He also said that that processors should make their systems of determining prices as open and transparent as possible while also ensuring that specification changes are communicated clearly to farmers.

What do farming organisations what from the Beef Forum?

The beef forum needs to address a number of issues such as the price differential between Irish and UK beef and the 30 month age limit, according to the ICSA’s Beef Chairman Edmond Phelan.

According to Phelan, beef exports to the US are going well, but there has been no real benefit to farmers while the issue of reviewing the grid has also been put on the long finger.

Phelan also said that factories are once again threatening to crucify farmers on weights and these must be addressed as there is no clear sense of partnership between factories.

The IFA has called on the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney, to intervene immediately to stop the unfair price cuts factories are attempting to impose on farmers.

According to the IFA’s National Livestock Chairman, the price differential between Irish and UK cattle is unsustainable and points to a real lack of competition.

He added that the IFA are strongly opposed to the imposition of carcass weight limits, which will have a very negative impact on the Irish beef sector particularly the suckler herd.

Burns also said that the IFA are insisting on a number of important factors are advanced at the upcoming beef forum.

These include the access to real markets, increasing the age limit of prime cattle while also improving the Departments controls on carcass trim and carcass classification.

It is also calling for a solution to labelling issues, Quality Assurance and a method to maintain the national suckler herd.