ICSA president Patrick Kent has given a sceptical response to the suggestion of an early slaughter premium as a means of keeping suckler numbers up.
“Slaughter premia have been tried before and all they do is give a subsidy to meat factories and consumers,” he said.
Mr Kent said that people forgot that beef price during the coupled payments era was stuck at €2.50/kg. At present beef price is €4.20 for Rs and rising and under 16 month bulls are being bought on the grid so they can fetch over €4.40 for top U grades.
“I suspect that the meat industry is behind this as they are looking at scarcity, increased opportunities for exports to China and live exports. The meat industry would love a slice of farmers’ existing Pillar 1 payments as a means of keeping a lid on prices,” said Mr Kent.
He said that whether a slaughter premium focused on early slaughter was compatible with claiming that we are selling grass fed beef must be questioned.
“There is no joined up thinking here. This is pushing beef finishing down an intensive, high cost system which will suit a few large scale feedlots,” said the ICSA president.
He said that, Instead of using grass, we will be taking some of the CAP money to pay for imported cereals.
“How can this be sustainable? How can we claim we are selling grass fed beef if we use diminishing CAP funds to subsidise intensive cereal based systems?” he asked.
Mr Kent maintained that this proposal would provide unfair competition for live exports to markets such as Turkey.
“Anything which damages live exports is not in the interest of the suckler sector,” he said.
“We need competition between Irish finishers and live exporters but this must be based on factories paying a decent bonus for heavy U grade carcasses.
“A gimmicky slaughter premium will do nothing to help this,” said Mr Kent.