4 APRIL 2020

ICSA beef chairman Edmund Graham has slammed the ABP group for bringing in Polish beef to meet shortages of beef at Asda and Sainsburys while simultaneously trying to drive down price paid to Irish farmers. He called on Irish farmers to point blank refuse to accept beef prices as low as €3.50/kg. “It is utterly unacceptable to cut prices 10c while leaving supermarket shelves in the UK short of beef.”

“They are doing the same thing to their UK farmer suppliers and ICSA is urging the British public to put pressure on Asda and Sainsburys for such shoddy treatment of the farmers who consistently supply quality assured beef.” 

“We are talking here about two supermarket groups that are normally large customers for Irish beef. There is no shortage of Irish beef so why has ABP allowed this market opportunity to be missed? Why have they shown contempt for Irish farmers whose hard work has made billionaires out of their owners? This is a new low at a time when everyone else in the country is working together. What kind of people would deliberately suck money out of Irish rural economies by disrupting the normal supply chain for Asda and Sainsburys?”

Mr Graham has called for a unified approach from all farm organisation in Ireland and the UK. “Not one farmer should supply cattle this week to ABP at a reduced price. There is no reason whatsoever for price cuts as has become abundantly clear by this cynical move.It is high time that ABP and other processors abandoned their disgraceful ongoing strategy to drive down price to farmers.  

ICSA is calling on ABP to apologise to Irish and UK farmers for this disgraceful action.  



3 APRIL 2020

ICSA sheep chairman Sean McNamara has urged sheep farmers to hold their nerve and resist price cutting for hoggets. “There is ample evidence of scarcity of sheep meat in retail outlets in Ireland and the UK. Meat factories are trying to create a scare to drive down spring lamb price and it is essential that we do not let them away with this. The volatility in recent weeks is a sign that supplies of hoggets are a lot scarcer than factories would like.

“What you see is threats of prices cuts one day, followed by better prices a day or two later. This is a symptom of supplies being scarce. This week, we have seen price fluctuate between €5/kg and €5.60/kg. Any farmer accepting the lower quote is being codded.”

“The reality now is that it is costing €110 to produce a hogget at this time of year. Farmers cannot be expected to supply hoggets and make no money. It is also a reality that spring lamb must make €7/kg at Easter if we want people to stay at sheep.”

The ICSA sheep chairman also slammed the weight limits as being totally over the top. “Farmers see severe weight limits as a means of crucifying them while boosting processor profits. It is not acceptable to continue with this type of dysfunctional food chain where processors and retailers make money but farmers make nothing. Many farmers in the sheep sector are extremely stressed and unable to pay bills. They work extremely hard, especially this time of year, to keep food on the shelves and they deserve better than this.”  



1 APRIL 2020
ICSA president Edmond Phelan has welcomed the statement from Tesco Ireland that they will be maintaining the price they are currently paying to processors until June 2020, in an effort to support beef farmers. 

Commenting on the move ICSA president Edmond Phelan said, “There is still massive demand for beef, both here and in the UK and this statement from Tesco Ireland provides clarity about that. What is less clear is why processors are cutting prices paid to farmers and attempting to further undervalue their produce by cheapening the product.”

“Of course, the price paid for beef is way below the cost of production and this will have to be addressed if consumers are to be guaranteed a long-term supply of quality assured Irish beef.  However, in the meantime, ICSA is calling on processors to stop playing games and to sell beef at a proper price and ensure that there is no scarcity of beef at any time, day or night, on supermarket shelves.” 

ICSA is now calling on all other major retailers to confirm that they will not be looking for discounted beef at a time when farmers are working hard in difficult conditions to keep the supply chain going. “The statement from Tesco is to be welcomed and it reflects the fact that consumers are very keen for quality Irish livestock products. We want to see other retailers also acknowledge this.” 

Following the last meeting of the Beef Taskforce ICSA met with Tesco senior management and an open line of communication remains.

 ”Tesco have acknowledged the very real pressure that beef farmers are under due to Covid-19. It’s time for our processors to show some solidarity too in these challenging times.”



31 MARCH 2020

ICSA suckler chair Ger O’Brien has welcomed the decision to allow marts facilitate the livestock trade under strict standard operating procedures. The decision means that marts can be used for delivering calves for sale and for weighing lots of older cattle and sheep. “Farmers have to sell livestock for cash flow purposes. This is a critical time of year for many farmers who wish to sell calves or stores, especially now as the grass season takes off. Keeping marts operational, even in a reduced capacity, is essential.”

“Farmers are very frustrated that meat factories are cutting prices and we need every possible outlet for stock, including the live export trade. On the other hand, farmers need a trusted broker that will ensure secure payment, provide accurate weighing facilities and deliver compliance with the Department AIM database.”

“Looking ahead, it is critical that marts are assisted to stay going and this will help them somewhat. ICSA is urging the Department officials to fast track all applications from marts which involves quickly approving their standard operating procedure documents, which marts will be submitting in the coming days.”



27 MARCH 2020

ICSA president Edmond Phelan has said there is a groundswell of support at EU level for comprehensive supports for the food and agriculture sector in the light of Covid-19. “This must be reflected in the actions and policies at Government level. In particular, calls for an Extraordinary Agricultural Programme at the recent EU Farm Council meeting must be brought to fruition.”

The key message which ICSA is strongly supporting is that this unprecedented crisis cannot be fully tackled within the already stretched resources of the Common Agricultural Policy. “Limiting ourselves to the CAP means robbing Peter to pay Paul and that is a totally unworthy response to this devastating crisis particularly as society, now more than ever, needs farmers to stay strong and to stay viable.”

ICSA wants to see the Government push very hard for extra funds from the European Central Bank (ECB) to be made available in addition to the CAP for an Extraordinary Agricultural Programme. In addition, ECB funding should be available to the banking sector as a means of allowing re-payment holidays on bank loans as well as additional low cost credit to support cash flow on farms.

“The closure of marts coupled with serious volatility in the beef and lamb markets will play havoc with the cash flow on many farms at a time when money will be needed for fertiliser, meal, diesel and, shortly, for first cut silage.

“Therefore, the Government should insist that the pillar banks offer a one year re-payment holiday on farm and business loans. These re-payments should be added, without penalty, to the end of the loan and in the meantime bank liquidity should be supported with equivalent money from the ECB, at zero interest. Vulture funds should also be forced to comply.”

ICSA is also calling for an Extraordinary Agricultural Programme which would put in place a robust crisis fund. This could be used to support a programme of Aids to Private Storage or Intervention buying for beef and lamb. The key here is not to have an open-ended programme; rather a programme of limited quantities where specific markets have evaporated (eg closure of McDonald’s, loss of demand for lamb in France). However, the price must be set to ensure no price drop for farmers.

“We should also examine the case for a price collapse support fund along the lines of BEAM but covering the sheep sector as well as the cattle sector.”

The programme should also provide funding for extra promotion of EU fresh meat products with a focus on encouraging consumers to cook using fresh EU produced foods.

ICSA is also insisting that we need to look very quickly at how we can support farmers who are forced to self-isolate. “Farmers are extremely worried about how their farm will be managed if they get sick and it is clear that the €350/ week payment will not pay for replacement labour at a busy time. There will also need to be flexibility around work permits, provided that precautions such as Covid testing are done.”

ICSA is also pushing very hard for a flexible approach around inspections and conditionality around EU schemes, and TB testing. “This must be led by the EU so that maximum use of remote sensing and a reduction in the percentage requirements for inspections are put in place. We cannot have a scenario where unnecessary farm inspections are taking place for fear of EU sanctions or delays in payments.”

“In relation to TB testing, ICSA supports farmers being able to delay the herd test where the farmer or vet has a reason to self-isolate and that this should be possible without sanctions on the farmer. ICSA is insisting that such farmers should be able to continue to sell stock to a meat factory or feedlot and that prohibitions on buying in should be set aside for the moment.”

ICSA is insisting that marts must be allowed to facilitate livestock sales through weighing and guaranteed payment services. “The closure of the mart is a serious blow to many farmers, and we want to ensure that marts are kept in business for the duration of the ban and to help farmers who are worried about secure payment. In addition, marts can make sure that AIM database requirements are fully complied with.”

The ICSA president also said that keeping live exports running smoothly was absolutely vital. “We note that over 35 NGOs, including Irish groups, are lobbying the EU for a ban on live exports. ICSA completely rejects this and is calling on all MEPs to stand with the farming community at this difficult time. Live exports are absolutely vital at a time when whole markets for beef and lamb are being impacted and instead of playing politics, we need green lanes at borders to reduce any unnecessary delays.”



25 MARCH 2020

ICSA sheep chairman Sean McNamara has said that hogget price has taken a serious hit this week with quotes now at €5.30, well below the typical price in excess of €6 over the past few weeks.

“Covid-19 seems to have hit the sheep trade really bad this week. ICSA is calling for an explanation from meat plants as to the exact cause of this. It is not good enough to collapse price without so much as an outline of what is happening. We also need an explanation as to why processors are continuing to import lambs from the North at this time. There is no excuse for bringing in lamb when market demand is falling. Bord Bia too need to step up and outline what is going on in markets. While we understand that some volatility is a consequence of Covid uncertainty, this is a savage drop and farmers want answers

Mr McNamara said he would fight very hard to resist the price collapse. “However, we need Minister Creed to understand that Covid is now having the biggest impact on the sheep sector and we need help urgently. It needs to be part of the discussion at today’s (Wednesday 25) EU Farm Council talks.”



25 MARCH 2020

ICSA suckler chair Ger O’Brien has said that the necessary closure of all marts on account of Covid-19 is a blow to farmers and hopefully will be for a short period only. “Livestock marts play a vital role in Irish farming and are a critical resource in determining a fair price for farmers. ICSA is concerned that prolonged mart closure would lead to a lot of difficulties for farmers who depend on the service they provide.

The livestock mart provides a level of transparent and open competition for livestock and it gives farmers a realistic view of what livestock are making. Many farmers who do not finish cattle on a commercial scale are very reliant on marts for selling stock and they offer the advantage of allowing farmers to see what stock are worth. Moreover, cattle are weighed properly and farmers can rely on prompt and guaranteed payment. Farmers need to be very careful of dealing on farm and need to be conscious of the risk of cheques bouncing.”

“While farm to farm sales can still take place, it will be vital that marts are available to weigh stock, to facilitate payment and to update the AIM database. This could be a time for innovation in the selling of livestock and farmers who are new to selling cattle need to look at how to offer stock for sale using social media and internet sites. Good photos and accurate information around weights, and ICBF figures in the case of breeding stock are helpful.”

“However, there is no doubt that the closure of marts even for a short period is a blow to farmers and to the rural communities where they are located. Apart from the important commercial considerations, marts have provided a vital social facility for farming people, some of whom have no other social outlet.  It is to be hoped that this is a very temporary measure and that the national campaign to slow Covid-19 succeeds sooner rather than later.”



24 MARCH 2020

ICSA Animal Health & Welfare chair Hugh Farrell has called on the Department of Agriculture to put measures in place to ensure farmers can readily speak with all relevant sections of the department, as needed. “It has never been more important for farmers to be able to get through to the Department of Agriculture and to have their issues resolved,” he said.

“Our members are reporting that it is increasingly difficult to get through to the Department, and when they do, they are being passed along to call centres and made to wait an excessive amount of time to receive call backs. This is unacceptable and proving to be very frustrating, particularly on the veterinary side of things, when farmers are already under enormous pressure.”

“Physical access to Department offices has understandably been restricted, but mechanisms must now be put in place as a matter of urgency to mitigate the impact of this. Likewise, all non-essential Department visits to farms should stop.”



24 MARCH 2020

ICSA president Edmond Phelan has called on the Minister for Agriculture to give a detailed outline of how much food we export to China and other South East Asian countries and how much we import from them. “While there has been a lot of effort put into exporting beef to Asia, the converse is that Asian chicken for sale in supermarkets appears to be on the increase.”

“ICSA is questioning why we would import chicken from China when they are already in a serious protein deficit. ICSA is also questioning if sales of beef to China are compensating for the undermining of price by cheap protein imports from outside of the EU? While increasing the amount of markets for any product is generally a positive, it is increasingly looking like the impact of globalised trade is doing no good for farmers in the EU or for that matter, in Asia. The only winners are shipping companies and multinational retailers and processors who are continuously exploiting global trade to the detriment of the primary producer.”

“There is already a debate about the level of self-sufficiency in Europe regarding fruit and veg. It is incomprehensible why a country like Ireland which has massive surplus capacity in meat would resort to importing meat from all over the globe at a time when there is so much focus on climate change.

Farmers are very frustrated, and it is increasingly likely that outlets selling or processing imported Asian chicken will face a backlash from farmers. ”



23 MARCH 2020

ICSA beef chairman Edmund Graham has called for the immediate introduction of market support measures such as Aids to Private Storage (APS) or intervention in light of the decision by McDonald’s to close all outlets in Ireland and the UK with immediate effect due to Covid-19. “In these extraordinary times, it is absolutely vital that we do everything possible to keep cattle farmers in business. Cattle farmers are already extremely vulnerable, and we need to immediately re-set the intervention reference price to ensure price does not drop below current levels.”

ICSA recognises that many sectors are badly impacted by Covid-19. However, it is critical to understand that farmers are now more vital than ever and are already struggling to stay going at current beef prices. The closure of McDonald’s represents a loss of over 3,000 tons of beef per month, much of which goes to UK outlets as well as Irish outlets.

“However, there is increased demand for beef on supermarket shelves and that could support beef price.  However, this is not a time for gambling and the introduction of market support measures is vital to keep price stable.”

ICSA has contacted the Minister and is urgently requesting this to be top of the agenda for the virtual meeting of EU agriculture ministers which is taking place this Wednesday (March 25). We cannot prevaricate at a time when food supply and security is so vital.”