Government fudge Rural Independent strategy establishing Beef regulator (Mattie McGrath)

The Rural Independent Group, who this week moved a Dáil motion seeking for the immediate establishment of a statutory Independent Beef Regulator to protect farmers interests, have slammed the government for its non-committal attitude and abject failure to be decisive and move on the proposal.

Speaking this week, in the aftermath of the Dáil debate on the motion, Deputy Mattie Mc Grath, the leader of the Rural Independent Group, stated:

“This week the government response to our motion was wishy-washy, non-committal and full of pretence. This approach is failing farmers and farm families and only serves to protect the interests of the beef barons.”

“The current beef system in Ireland is broken. My colleagues and I presented an ideal opportunity for government to do something tangible towards protecting farmers’ interests, by establishing a beef regulator capable of protecting the economic interests of farmers against the powers of the processors and retailers.”

“Instead of tackling the issue and moving with decisiveness on our proposals, the government seem content to allow a regime of light touch and ineffective regulation to persist, a system which forces farmers to accept below cost prices.”

“It is extremely disappointing, but not entirely surprising, to see this government favour big players and vested interests over ordinary farmers. The current system allows processors (factories) and the large supermarkets (multiples) to make substantial profits, while farmers are forced to sell below the cost of production.”

“In opposition, Fianna Fail were using every opportunity to call for a beef regulator. Now, inside government and enjoying the trappings of power, they have gone silent, despite holding the agriculture portfolio. Incredibly, the current Agriculture Minister has stated that it is now unreasonable for farmers to seek a price above the cost of production. It is as if he has become the protector of factory interests.” 

“Our proposals seek a regulator with real powers and resources to oversee the sector and to make direct recommendations to government. The Irish Beef sector has gone from crisis to crisis for years. Farmers have always been the losers.”

“The oligopoly that exists in the Irish beef sector means a small number of factories, either explicitly or tacitly, are allowed to fix prices, in order to boost above normal market returns.”

“The only way to deal with such unethical practices is through rigorous and robust policy and regulation measures, to curtail such behaviour.”

“Many of the large meat industry conglomerates are unlimited companies, which means that they do not publish their annual accounts, despite making hundreds of millions in profit, often paying no tax. The regulator would bring transparency to this area also.”

“Serious questions have now emerged as to why the government choose to stand on the side-line while farmers engage in a David versus Goliath struggle against the large Beef barons. By not dealing decisively with this issue, it sends the message to carry on regardless, irrespective of the price fixing arrangements and the outright exploitation of farmers’ livelihoods,” concluded Deputy Mc Grath.