23 May 2022

'Progress made' in beef crisis talks between key industry representatives

Michael Creed

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed TD.

Representatives from Meat Industry Ireland (MII), the Beef Plan Movement (BPM), Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, and representatives from other farming bodies such as the IFA, the ICSA and ICMSA, began talks on Monday, August 12, with the view of sorting out differences between farmers and meat processors in light of recent countrywide protests.

Beef talks took place in Backweston, chaired by Michael Dowling, and concluded after more than 12 hours of discussions between various parties. Representatives from each body were granted permission to list some points on the current crisis in the beef sector.

IFA president Joe Healy says some progress has been made in terms of market transparency and the introduction of a price index. He also confirmed that there is also a commitment to look at the market specifications that impact on price that exist in the grid. This was also confirmed by ICSA President Edmond Phelan, who warned that further work is necessary to make any worthwhile changes.

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The ICSA president said: "In terms of specifics, we have an agreement for a full review of the beef pricing grid and related issues such as the thirty month specification and the bonus payments to quality assured farmers. These are very contentious points for farmers and we expect that Bord Bia analysis on market requirements will inform the process.

“There is a commitment to more transparency in the food chain, specifically to determine who gets what margin. ICSA strongly contends that the farmer gets an unfair and inadequate share of the final retail price."

Mr Phelan also confirmed that all bodies were in agreement that beef producers need further support to help overcome unprecedented losses.

"There was also full agreement that Ireland must press for substantial further support for beef producers arising from ongoing and unprecedented losses from Brexit and the potential for things to get worse before they get better in the event of no-deal on October 31.” He said.

“It was also agreed that Ireland should be pressing the EU to invoke the WTO safeguard clause which would halt beef imports from outside the EU on the basis that there was a threat of serious injury to the industry due to market turmoil.

"It was also agreed that Bord Bia would drive on with efforts to begin a suckler beef promotion campaign with a view to demonstrating the potential to develop a suckler beef market proposition designed to get higher prices for speciality suckler beef."
Mr Phelan warned that these issues would require further negotiation and that the main issue of poor prices is continuing to pose a serious threat to the viability of the whole beef sector in Ireland.

He said: "Both processors and retailers need to reflect on the fact that there is only so much losses that can be sustained before the whole house of cards comes falling down."

Following the conclusion of talks, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, urged each farming body to continue with what he called constructive dialogue. In a statement, He thanked participants for their time and input, and Michael Dowling for chairing the discussions.

Talks expected to recommence either on Thursday, August 15, or on Monday, August 19.

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