ICSA beef chairman Edmond Phelan has said that he is astonished at the relaxed attitude displayed by Minister Coveney in the Dáil last week where he played down the difficulties faced by beef finishers. “The Minister seems unaware that the U3 bull price is down 50c/kg since last August and a whopping 90c/kg compared with last June, representing a €378 loss on a 420kg carcass.”
“Worse still is the fact that a bull weighing above 420kg is getting hit another 15c/kg, so the potential to cover losses by higher weights is gone. Minister Coveney needs to come out of denial and face the inconvenient truth that there is a huge crisis in the beef sector and this is going to have a huge knock-on effect on the quality continental suckler herd. Food Harvest 2020 is dead in the water.”
“It beggars belief that the Minister could try to talk up the current situation referring to the increased levels of animals being processed while ignoring the losses being made by producers. It also shows that there is something amiss about claims that there is no market for bull beef yet obviously bulls are still being processed but at a price that is disastrous for producers. The 420kg bull is making €1,500 odd here (including VAT) compared with €1,877 in Italy, €1696 in France and €1,726 in Spain. Producers in all these countries have seen significant price increases since last autumn whereas bull price here is down 11% since last October.”
The Minister also is missing the point that price needs to increase over the expensive winter finishing period, otherwise orderly marketing throughout the year is going to be impossible. Winter milk producers always seek a bonus; likewise winter finishing cannot be sustained on price falls.
Mr Phelan said that he was also amazed at comments by the Minister that price and market specification are matters to be determined by purchasers and sellers of cattle. “Surely the Minister is not suggesting that farmers had any say in the unilateral imposition of 16 month and 420kg specs overnight? Moreover, he can’t be seriously saying that farmers have any say in price setting.
The reality is that there is no realistic possibility of many powerless farmers negotiating price or spec on equal footing with the oligopoly that is the Irish beef processing sector. The vast majority of beef in this country is sold by farmers without a contract and it is insulting for the Minister to imply that farmers have any control over this situation.”
Mr Phelan concluded by repeating his call for an independent regulator for the beef sector and called on the Minister to face up to the fact that there is a crisis which he needs to address in a serious way.