Commenting on the conclusion of the beef crisis talks, the President of ICMSA, Pat McCormack, said that while he was very disappointed that there was no positive news in relation to the price of beef arising from the talks, he did welcome a number of technical changes that have the potential to improve the situation for individual farmers in a small way.
“At the end of the day, the whole purpose of these talks was to improve the income situation of beef farmers; Brexit represents a massive threat to our income, and it is the Government and the EU that must respond without delay in relation to this matter. We accept that tweaking the specs and grades is no substitute for a beef price rise but much of what was wrong with our beef sector and the below-cost prices it delivers to the farmer is actually systemic – the low prices to farmers are a function of the hopelessly biased system on which those farmers had to sell into the factories. Anything therefore that bit-by-bit begins the process of reforming that system is beneficial to farmers. If the only thing that the talks achieved was the public signal that the present pricing structure, the present specs and the overall present system were now obviously themselves ‘out-of-spec’ than the exercise was worthwhile”, said the ICMSA President.
“ICMSA will work and wait to see how the changes proposed will work their way through; but we don’t think that all the answers are here. One question that we’ll want answered is why we still don’t have the obvious situation where all cattle coming off a quality assured farm automatically qualify for the QA bonus? That’s so obvious and so long overdue that it will have to be answered sooner rather than later. The real nub of the matter in beef – as in milk, incidentally – is the question of transparency in margins and share of final retail price and that is where this is going to go. Until and unless the factories and retailers believe that someone is going to step in and legislate on margins, then they are going to grab more for themselves and that will be at the continuing expense of the farmer primary-producer. The likelihood is that the decisive move on this front will originate at EU level and ‘hurry the day’. But that doesn’t mean that the Irish Government should just stand back and wring their hands while blatant unfair trading practices take place every day in every supermarket in the sate”, concluded Mr. McCormack.
Ends 21 August 2019
Pat McCormack, 087-7608958
Cathal MacCarthy, 087-6168758
ICMSA Press Office