IFA National Livestock Committee Chairman Henry Burns said IFA has always supported the producer group concept, but Minister Coveney has to address the fundamental issues on price and weights.
He said the way the meat factories are imposing weight limit and age penalties on our best farmers and quality stock is a complete breach of the outcomes agreed by Minister Coveney in the Beef Forum and a move to undermine the Quality Payment System. He said the factories have shown total disregard for the Minister for Agriculture as Chairman of the Forum.
The IFA Livestock leader said it is incredible that Minister Coveney has allowed the factories to blatantly ignore one of the key outcomes in the Forum which clearly states: ‘Processors agree that there will be no dual base pricing for steers and heifers in individual processing plants, by breed, age or weight or Quality Assurance status’.
He said some of the major processor groups which agreed this with the Minister and farmers are quoting farmers two different base prices for different weights of cattle.
Henry Burns said farmers fail to understand why Minister Coveney is so reluctant to call the factories to task on this and insist that they honour the agreed outcomes of the Forum. “Farmers are demanding to know why the Minister is so much on the side of the processor and so much offside with the farmer.”
He said the weight penalties imposed by the meat plants are extremely penal and unnecessary, and target our best farmers and best cattle. He said the suckler farmers being targeted by the factories with the penal weigh cuts are our most productive and best performing breeders with the best quality stock.
Henry Burns said IFA worked with the Quality Payment System so as quality breeders and livestock were properly rewarded through improved prices. The price differentials in the QPS grid were scientifically based on Teagasc research data and did not include weight or age limits. “The factories are now trying to tear up the QPS and impose weight limit price cuts which completely ignore the science. This is not acceptable and a complete breach of what was written down by Minister Coveney in the Beef Forum.” In addition, he said the in spec bonus under the QPS is very clear and does not involve any weight limits.
Henry Burns said the imposition of penal weight limit cuts will drive more and more of our quality cattle from the suckler herd towards live exports. He said some of our best stock is already exported live but the QPS, through rewarding quality, allowed Irish farmers compete for these animals over recent years. With the weight limit cuts this will no longer be the case and more quality cattle will be exported live. He said in Italy today top quality Irish weanlings are being finished to carcase weights of up to 470 kgs at top prices of €4.40/kg.