Independent TD Mattie McGrath has accused the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney of being blind to the true nature of the crisis afflicting the beef sector. Deputy McGrath was speaking during Oral Questions to the Minister in the Dáil, where he challenged the Minister to state what actions he would take to protect beef farmers livelihoods in the event that current negotiations with Meat Industry Ireland conclude without agreement:
“The replies I have received from the Minister this morning give a depressing insight into how he is approaching this crisis. Yes his efforts at establishing the roundtable discussions are welcome, but that does nothing to hide the fact that he seems to have radically misunderstood the nature of the beast he is asking farmers to negotiate with.
The meat processors in this State have had a stranglehold on the livelihoods of farmers for decades now. The Minister meanwhile denies that such a cartel exists. Now regardless of what he wants he call it, the situation on the ground is having the same effect as a State protected cartel.
What else can we call it when the reported differential between the price paid to producers and the price paid by consumers in supermarkets throughout this country is as high as 1,600%?
There is also the matter of why it has taken so long for the Department to enforce Article 39 of the Lisbon Treaty which guarantees that farmers are entitled to a fair price in the market.
So it lacks a certain credibility when the Minister continues to trot out the line that he cannot intervene to ensure a reasonable price. This Government is tasked with implementing the Treaty provisions, provisions which in this case are specifically designed to offset the dangers which arise when a limited group of meat processors have a disproportionate hold on the beef market as they do here.
I would again urge the Minister to try and gain a more realistic assessment of the crisis and drop the belief that the Meat Industry, at least in this instance are acting in good faith. We have seen that this is not the case from the manner in how it continually colluded to alter weight and specification criteria over the course of many years, alterations which have driven us to this crisis point,” concluded Deputy McGrath.