Unsustainable beef prices are likely to take centre stage at today’s Beef Forum as some winter finishers begin to lose confidence in the trade.

Today’s forum will be the first roundtable meeting of industry stakeholders since Teagasc published figures showing that steer finishers will need a price of €4.44c/kg to breakeven this winter – almost 80c/kg higher than the current price being offered to farmers.

Commenting prior to the Beef Forum, IFA President Joe Healy said that the livestock farmer’s income crisis has to be addressed.

The IFA Leader said a strategy needs to be set out for the sector on viable cattle prices and Brexit, while adding that loss-making cattle prices this autumn have seriously undermined confidence in the sector.

Factories, and all sections of the industry, know there is no future for the Irish beef industry at current prices.

“Factories must demand significantly higher prices from their British retailer customers and pass these increases directly back to struggling farmers,” he said.

Healy also said that a strategy based on more live exports of calves, weanlings and store cattle needs to be created to allow for a better supply and demand balance in the market and to generate more competition.

Along with cattle exports, the Galway native also said that Minister Creed needs to prioritise market access to find viable outlets for the increased numbers forecast in 2017.

In addition, he said the Minister needs to secure a solution to the labelling issues being used to block the live export of cattle to Northern Ireland and Britain.

Beef industry expansion dead in the water

ICSA President, Patrick Kent, said the Beef Forum is going to have to face to think about sustainable downsizing in the livestock trade, given that the beef industry cannot deliver anywhere near sustainable prices for beef at present.

“With the uncertainty around Brexit, and the clear signal from the beef processors that they see Brexit and weaker Sterling as a reason to cut beef price.

“It is clear that the Foodwise 2025 strategy of massive expansion of our output (to €19 billion) is now dead in the water,” he said.

Kent is also likely to raise the issue of recently opened markets, as he feels the beef industry has failed to deliver benefits to farmers from the opening of the US market to manufacturing beef.

Efforts to open new markets in China and South East Asia, although valiant, have so far delivered nothing in terms of beef price.

Kent also said that the ICSA is insisting that a full review of the pricing structures under the grid are reviewed.

“The 30-month cut off, weight limits and residency requirements are all artificial and crooked devices to undermine farmer price and must end,” he said.