Beef prices for Irish farmers have fallen substantially, but more worryingly is the fact that they are falling faster than many other countries around the world, according to Michael Guinan, chair of ICMSA’s Livestock Committee.
“It is simply not acceptable to see that the same type of beef can be priced so differently and to find, moreover, that the gap between Irish beef prices and comparable markets is actually widening year on year.
No one seriously disputes the fact that Irish farmers produce the highest quality beef on the market but we’re still left with these astonishing and inexplicable differences in prices between Ireland and other EU countries - and even the US – that challenge all logic and are frankly deeply disturbing,” he said.
Mr Guinan said ICMSA had looked at the price difference between Ireland and five different countries and the EU average for an R3 steer on an annualised basis. This calculation, which takes the weekly price difference and averages it over the year, makes very stark reading for steer producers in Ireland as, without exception, those countries that had higher prices than Ireland to begin with in 2011 had higher differences in each of the subsequent years. Even more worrying is the reality that those countries that had lower prices in 2011 have either closed the gap completely or even exceeded the Irish price.
The Tullamore-based beef expert said that as Irish prices rose in 2011, 2012 and 2013, the trend was masked by optimistic markets, but the differential was rising year on year.
However, as prices have fallen in 2014 the trend towards widening differentials between Irish beef prices and others is now fully exposed with Irish R3 steer prices falling faster than the comparable markets and widening the differential even further.
Putting these differences into market returns for an average 350kg steer, Irish farmers are a massive €230 worse off than a British farmer and €93 worse off than the average EU price.
“It is quite clear that there is something fundamentally wrong with the pricing of Irish cattle and what we now have is a ‘race to the bottom’ with the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine seemingly content to wash his hands of this matter.
“The Minister can ‘talk up’ Food Harvest 2020 all he wants, but unless he addresses these price differentials it will not happen in the beef sector. What we need is greater competition for meat plants and this can only be achieved by a vibrant live exports trade to the UK and other markets,” said Mr Guinan.