Commenting on the speech given by Minister Smith at the Beef Expo Ireland 2010 event in Kilkenny, the ICMSA Beef & Cattle Committee Chairman, Kevin Connolly, said that it was always worthwhile to hear a Government minister 'getting behind' the Irish beef sector, certain inhibiting factors were present and needed to be faced if the sector was to realise its full potential in a national economic recovery.
Mr Connolly said that we were now fast approaching December 15 which would mark the first anniversary of the introduction of the present Beef Grid. Over the course of that year, it was now utterly obvious that a very substantial majority of Irish farmers simply did not possess any confidence in the current grid which Mr Connolly described as 'arbitrary, over-complicated and incapable of transmitting logical and simple messages back to farmers about the prices they can expect to receive'. Mr Connolly said it was common knowledge all over Ireland that even experienced cattle agents were now confessing that they had no idea what cattle would make on the current grid. The resulting loss of confidence was having an enormous knock-on in terms of the ongoing reduction in the national suckler herd and the decision of many dairy farmers to cease a beef operation. Mr Connolly acknowledged that the current grid was not within the remit of the Minister, but he pointed out that the mechanical graders were very definitely the responsibility of the Department and persistent reports about malfunctions had, once again, undermined farmer confidence in this critical area. It should be possible for the Department to publish the results of their inspections of the mechanical graders in exactly the same way as they publish the results of their milk quality inspections.
It was all very well, stated Mr Connolly, to hold forth on the potential of the Irish beef sector to help in the national economic recovery. But the farmers actually producing the beef had lost an enormous amount of confidence in the pricing system that paid them. That loss of confidence could easily be repaired if people were only willing to face the facts and begin working together for the benefit of the whole sector.
Ends. 11 October 2010.
Kevin Connolly, 087-9381173
Chairman, ICMSA Beef & Cattle Committee
Cathal MacCarthy, 087-6168758 or 061-314677
ICMSA Press Office