Since the start of the year, beef prices in the UK have increased relative to 2013 while almost the complete opposite has occurred here in Ireland, according to Michael Guinan, chair of ICMSA’s Beef and Cattle Committee
“Farmers are clearly asking why our prices falling at a time when prices in the UK - our largest purchaser of beef - have actually increased year on year.”
“The Minister for Agriculture, Food & Marine ceaselessly ‘talks-up’ the prospects of the Agri-Food sector but the present reality on the ground is totally different with farmers suffering heavy losses on beef while they can clearly see, based on UK returns, that the market place is performing well. Based on statistics published by Bord Bia, we can see that steer and heifer prices in the UK have increased by approximately 4% in January 2014 compared to January 2013 while steer and heifer prices here have fallen by 3-4.5% over the same period. The gap in prices at this stage is €230 per head on a R3 steer, €147 per head on a R3 heifer and €237 per head on a R3 bull. How can such gaps be justified and why is the gap increasing? Serious and speedy serious questions need to be asked of the meat plants as to why such a gap exists given that we export most of our beef to the UK market”, said Mr Guinan
“Farmers have invested heavily in quality assurance on the insistence of the meat sector and Bord Bia and they rightly feel at this stage that they are getting kicked in the teeth by the very same processors. The Minister needs to address this issue directly with the meat plants and, in addition, the Minister needs to address the live export to UK issue. If our meat plants can’t pay prices close to our main market, the Minister must ensure that Irish farmers can export their cattle live to the UK and most importantly - that Irish cattle can be slaughtered in UK meat processing plants on the same basis as UK cattle”, continued the ICMSA chairman.
“The live export trade is the one factor that can pressurise meat plants in terms of price and the Minister needs to ‘up the ante’ in terms of ensuring that forward store finished cattle can be shipped live to the UK and be slaughtered there on the same basis as UK cattle. Immediate action from the Minister is required here if farmers are to feel any confidence in the situation now and going forwards”, he concluded.