There is now a “clear basis” for an increase in the price of beef, according to the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA), which is calling on factories to “immediately raise beef quotes”.

Pat McCormack, the association’s president, said that the Bord Bia Beef Market Price Index, which was launched last week, is “clearly showing that the markets where we sell our beef are moving in a positive direction and at a momentum that demonstrably justifies an improvement in our beef price”.

“The UK market, where over half our beef is sold, has seen improvements in beef prices, while our price has been static at best in recent months,” McCormack added.

The gap between the Irish and UK price of R3 and O3 steers stood at 21c/kg and 18c/kg respectively in late July, while the gap today stands at 37c/kg and 35c/kg respectively.

“It is very obvious that markets have improved, but the benefits of those visible market improvements have not been passed back to farmers to date and, given the disastrous price situation for 2019, this just cannot be allowed to continue,” McCormack insisted.

He continued: “In addition, the availability of under 30-month cattle has tightened considerably and on that basis there should be more competition for cattle in the coming weeks.”

The ICMSA president said that the gap in beef prices between here and the UK “again highlights the frustration of farmers who see markets improving, but their own price remaining static”.

The question that remains unanswered is: Who is retaining this additional margin at the expense of the primary producer?: It’s either the processor or the retailer.

McCormack said that this question should be addressed by the Beef Market Taskforce, and called for the taskforce to be reconvened “quickly”.

He went on to say: “This is the perfect example of the margin grabbing that has caused so much bitterness and resentment in the beef sector, where prices go up and either the processors or retailers just pocket the increased margin without passing anything back to the farmers who are actually producing beef.

“That has to change, and until it does, the sector will lurch from crisis to crisis,” McCormack concluded.