It is time for the meat industry to come forward with supports for winter finishers by offering guaranteed minimum prices, the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) has said.

The ICSA’s beef chair Edmund Graham said that farmers trying to finish cattle in sheds over the winter face additional costs and there is no denying that these “have gone up astronomically” of late.

Graham stated that it is now time for the industry to “get on board with offering guaranteed minimum prices for winter finishing”, as the current situation is “completely unsustainable”.

“This is something ICSA has been looking for, as no farmer can operate a business on the basis of feeding cattle just to lose money,” he said.

Graham said that farmers in the sector have expressed their anger as processors continue to ignore how inflation has affected their production costs, and added that neither they or the government, have offered any support.

“Winter finishers have received no support whatsoever, not from the government and certainly not from the processors who appear to be hell bent on driving their suppliers out of business,” the beef chair said.

He said that these farmers are receiving prices “way back on what is being paid for cattle coming off grass in early summer”, which he said makes no sense.

The finishers have raised the issue numerous times said Graham, most recently at a meeting of the Food Vision Beef and Sheep Group, with Meat Industry Ireland (MII).

“MII talked about supporting their suppliers but all we’ve got since are the same old excuses about why we must accept less,” he said.

“It’s just not washing with farmers who cannot see any justification for feeding cattle over the winter as they see prices being slashed again this week.

“The days of factories thinking it’s reasonable to keep beef prices for next spring a total mystery must come to an end.”

Graham referred to Teagasc’s Situation and Outlook for Irish Agriculture report which was published on Monday (October 3), and said that “according to [it], annual incomes for beef producers are set to be the lowest of any farming sector in 2022”.

The report states that “a negative average net margin per hectare of -€20 is forecast for the cattle finishing enterprise in 2022”.

“The fact that these same farmers are also expected to shoulder 100% of the risk associated with producing beef just adds insult to injury,” Graham said.

“The direness of the situation is plain to see and unless the newly established Office for Fairness and Transparency in the Agri-Food Supply Chain has the teeth to deal with this blatant lack of fair play, the consequences will be even more dire,” he concluded.