Farmers protest against beef factory price cuts
7 February 2014
Farmers protested against cuts in beef prices over the last two months outside factories including Kepak in Clonee, Co. Meath, Dawn Meats plant in Grannagh, Co. Waterford and the ABP plant in Nenagh, Co. Tipperary.
Speaking at the protest outside Kepak on Wednesday, 12 February, IFA president Eddie Downey said the factory price for bulls had been cut by 30c to 50c/kg or up to €200 per head since last December, leaving winter finishers with "substantial losses".
Need to restore confidence
Downey said the IFA had met all of the meat plants since the New Year outlining the losses at farm level, demanding price stability and a move on the backlog of bulls.
The IFA president said it is essential that the factories restore some confidence into the beef trade and also send a clear signal to their suppliers that the price of in-spec steers and heifers will not come under attack.
"The reality is that there is good market demand for in-spec steers and heifers and factories should be well capable maintaining last week’s base prices of €4.00/kg for steers and €4.10/kg for heifers. Factories, retailers and food service customers involved in the Irish beef sector have major responsibilities to farmers in the regard," Downey said.
Encouraged to export
He added that in 2011 and 2012, factories encouraged farmers to keep their dairy calves for beef and not export them. Farmers complied and are now subsequently unable to get their bulls killed, let alone get a viable price. They therefore believe the factories have reneged on their commitments and "feel very let down".
IFA National Livestock chairman Henry Burns also pointed out that in Ireland’s largest export market in the UK, steers and heifers were receiving from €4.50 to €4.80/kg including VAT, making it "very difficult for Irish farmers to understand why our prices are under such pressure".
A ‘closed shop’
Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) beef chairman Edmond Phelan slammed the structure of beef processing in Ireland, which he described as an "anti-competitive closed shop".
Phelan claimed the Irish beef industry is totally controlled by just three big processors who are also dominating UK processing. He highlighted the fact that beef processors are further undermining Irish farmers by using their own feedlots and contracted operators to ensure that prices to farmers can be kept under control. "It is particularly ironic that in the international year of the family farm, supermarkets seem to be happy to have factory-run feedlots supply beef while family farms go under," he said.
The ICSA is demanding that both the factories and retailers come to the table to explain whether there is any point in maintaining the national suckler herd in its current format.