Following a meeting between ICMSA and Meat Industry Ireland, John Comer, president of ICMSA, said there was a desperate requirement for a joint strategic plan on the part of both the factories and farm organisations if the current bull beef problems are to be resolved and avoided in future.
He again called on the meat plants to slaughter bulls at a reasonable price and not at prices that were, in some cases, down 17 per cent on the prices being paid this time last year.
Mr Comer observed that such reductions that have not occurred in any other European beef market and he predicted that the extent of the losses suffered by individual farmers will certainly have consequences that will impact on the industry going forward through reduced supplies.
“The meat industry must set down clear plans for bull beef production with clear commitments given to farmers who decide to remain with this enterprise. If meat plants are serious about developing a producer - processor relationship and showing that they understand that the factory and the farmer are interdependent then the current issues need to be dealt with immediately and clear guidelines given for the future.
“Recent developments in relation to bull beef are likely to result in many farmers simply shipping calves live rather than taking them to finishing and the industry will suffer the consequences of today’s problems in about two years time when supply is likely to be substantially lower.
“Looking across the EU, there is no other market where bull beef prices have fallen as much and farmers who produced bull beef believe they are being unfairly targeted by meat plants at a time of year when prices traditionally would be on an upward trajectory”, said Mr Comer.
The ICMSA president said this bull beef problem originated in the introduction of the beef price grid and the specifications around the grid. He repeated ICMSA’s call on the meat plants to review the specifications which are inevitably going to lead to beef supply problems at specific times of the year.
“It is perfectly clear that the specification that the market is operating under is not suitable to a grass- based production system that needs to guarantee year-round supply and the 30-month age limit, the number of boxes in the grid, and the extension of the quality assurance bonus to more grades must be all examined to address the concerns of farmers”, he said.
“Unless there is a change in the specification - particularly in light of quota abolition - meat plants could find themselves facing a very different supply base than they have now and they need to act immediately to address the concerns of farmers,” said Mr Comer.