Speaking after today’s beef roundtable in Dublin Castle, the President of ICMSA, John Comer, welcomed the engagement of Minister Coveney and his department in what he described as the current chaotic situation afflicting Irish beef farmers. Mr Comer said that it was both important and fair to acknowledge these first moves towards some degree of supervision of the pricing and margin structure in the hope that the present completely exposed position of the farmers might in some way be protected and he was particularly enthusiastic about the commitment to roll-out the ‘Beef Pricewatch’ online tool aimed at making price information more accessible and free to farmers. However, Mr Comer said that the most obvious solution to the endemic problems around ensuring that farmers got a fair price for their beef would have been the setting up of a Beef Market Monitoring Agency of a type similar to that announced by the EU last year for the dairy markets. Mr Comer said that it was longer acceptable or sensible for beef suppliers to be left completely at the whim of the factories, processors and retailers in terms of price and specifications and it was vital for all parties – including, ultimately, the beef factories themselves – that some degree of predictability and viability was restored to the business of finishing cattle.
Mr Comer said that the present system where farmers invested up to three years in producing cattle only to be told at the last minute that all the factory specifications had changed and their three years work was ‘down the drain’ was utterly unfair and was going to inevitably wreck beef production in Ireland. The ICMSA President said that the remit of the Dairy Market Monitoring Agency was precisely this kind of ‘look ahead’ to where supply and demand conditions might change in a way that would radically alter price and then the recommendation of policies that would ameliorate those drastic price swings. It was now very obvious, according to the ICMSA President, that a similar type of agency was needed to look at the Irish and wider EU beef markets into which a huge portion of our beef is exported, with the remit of ‘smoothing out’ the factory-to-farmer price and moving it onto a viable basis that greatly educed – insofar as it’s possible – the kind of utterly destructive prices to beef farmers that we had seen in this state since before Christmas.
Ends 17 April 2014.
John Comer, 087-2057846
Cathal MacCarthy, 087-6168758
ICMSA Press Office