DOG OWNERS URGED TO KEEP TABS ON PETS AT ALL TIMES FOLLOWING ATTACK ON SHEEP

3 JANUARY 2020

ICSA sheep chair Sean McNamara has urged dog owners to be mindful of where their pets are at all times as he again deals with the after-effects of an attack on his own flock. “On New Year’s Day, we lost four ewes in one attack. Witnesses have said that two dogs were involved in the incident, which occurred during the afternoon hours,” he said.

In early 2018 Mr McNamara from Lismacaffrey in Co Westmeath lost over 40 ewes during a six-week period and knows first-hand the emotional as well as financial impact these attacks can have. “It’s unbelievably distressing to walk out and find dead or dying ewes. Even if the sheep are not directly attacked and have no visible injuries, they can die from the shock alone. The stress brought on by the attack can also cause some ewes to abort. Then, there are also financial losses to deal with.”

Mr McNamara took the opportunity to remind people that these attacks are preventable. “The busy lambing period is coming up and I would plead with those living in rural communities to be extra vigilant of their dog’s whereabouts. Any breed of dog, even a treasured family pet, can be involved in a sheep worrying episode. It is imperative for all dog owners to be conscious of the devastation their pets can cause when left unsupervised, even for a short time.”

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CALF REARING EQUIPMENT GRANT NO BENEFIT IF BEEF PRICE STAYS BELOW PRODUCTION COSTS

19 DECEMBER 2019

ICSA president Edmond Phelan has said that the announcement of grant aid for calf rearing equipment will not be of any benefit if the price of beef remains well below the cost of production. “All grant aid is welcome for those who wish to invest in developing their farming activity. However, rearing calves at current beef prices is a complete waste of time.”

“I cannot understand how meat processors expect to keep their business viable long- term while they allow farmers to lose a fortune supplying beef at €3.55.”

“The reality is that markets everywhere are buoyant on the back of protein scarcity in China.  Even Brazilian beef price is getting close to Irish beef price now.  If meat processors want farmers to rear the 2020 crop of dairy calves, then we need an immediate and substantial beef price rise in January.  Otherwise ICSA will be advising farmers that buying calves is a totally unprofitable endeavour and they would be well advised to hold on to their money.”

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VICTORY FOR COMMON SENSE AS NATIONWIDE BAN ON SMOKY COAL IS SHOT DOWN

17 DECEMBER 2019

ICSA rural development chair Tim Farrell has said the Government decision not to impose a nationwide ban on smoky coal is a victory for common sense. “For the ban to go ahead it would have to include both turf and timber, so this decision will be a big relief for households right across rural Ireland who depend hugely on these locally sourced fuels,” he said.

While a ban on smoky coal will be introduced to an additional 13 towns, the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Richard Bruton today (17 Dec) confirmed that a nationwide ban was off the cards.

“The idea that people in rural Ireland should be prevented from heating their homes with logs or turf was a ludicrous one. ICSA has consistently highlighted the insanity of these proposals and should they have passed it would no doubt have caused a mutiny. It is absurd that ordinary decent people could be criminalised for burning logs from a fallen down tree or thinnings from forestry plantations.”

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UK ELECTION RESULT BRINGS MORE CLARITY TO BREXIT PROCESS

13 DECEMBER 2019

ICSA president Edmond Phelan has said the outcome of the UK election will hopefully bring much-needed clarity to the Brexit process. “While hoping for a reversal of Brexit was always wishful thinking, there is now little doubt that Boris Johnson’s withdrawal deal will be ratified in the House of Commons.”

“The key issue of negotiating a trade deal remains however. The UK is our biggest market for beef, and it is crucial that unhindered access is protected at all cost. In the meantime, the improvement in sterling as a direct result of the election outcome must be reflected in an immediate rise in base prices. Factories have no more excuses left to hide behind; the time for them to act on price is now.”

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ICSA SLATES PROPOSED BAN ON LIGHTING A FIRE TO KEEP WARM

10 DECEMBER 2019

Ní bheidh aon tinteán ar bith

ICSA rural development chairman Tim Farrell has slated proposals to ban burning turf and timber in every fireplace in the country. “It is totally insane to say that people in the country would be banned from burning wood from trees that are blown down in a storm, or that are thinned from forestry plantations. Many people in rural areas are dependent on lighting a fire to keep warm or need the solid fuel cooker for both cooking and powering the other heaters. Instead of Níl aon tinteán mar do thinteán féin, it will be a case of Ní bheidh aon tinteán ar bith.

“Burning timber to create warmth in family homes across the country is a real example of exemplary recycling in many cases. Trees blow down or have to be trimmed.  Most of this fuel requires little or no transport, compared to importing oil from the Middle East. If you do not allow wood burning, you are undermining the case for forestry because that is the main outlet for first thinnings. Given that the Government has targets to increase forestry, it would be totally incoherent to undermine the sector by eliminating the first source of benefit to those who plant.”

“This is another example of urban elites trying to put all the blame for climate change on the ordinary people of rural Ireland while they continue jet setting lifestyles. A new runway is being constructed in Dublin airport as passenger numbers have increased some 60% since 2011 to 30 million. Yet the Government is thinking about leaving the poor people of rural Ireland to perish with the cold and prevent them from lighting a fire on nights like we are having at the moment.”

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ICSA AMAZEMENT AT TESCO WASHING THEIR HANDS OF BELOW COST PRICES PAID TO FARMERS

9 DECEMBER 2019

ICSA president Edmond Phelan has expressed amazement at the statement made by TESCO in response to the IFA protest at its distribution centre in which it claims that the price paid by consumers in their shops is unrelated to the price paid to the primary producer.

“TESCO and other retailers cannot wash their hands of the issue of farmers being forced to work for less than the cost of production. The additional statement that TESCO pays for any promotions is particularly of interest given that the ICSA heifer experiment suggests that retailers and processors share a mark-up before costs of some €1,500 for a heifer that was bought from the farmer at little over €1,200, where that beef is sold at non-discounted price.”

“For many years retailers have supported fair trade coffee but it is shocking that they don’t give a damn about primary producers of beef on their own doorstep. The relentless focus on driving down price is part of the problem, but it is also the insistence that farmers are entitled to less than half the retail price after a process of breeding and feeding that takes three years. Then within three weeks, the processors carve up the majority of the value of the animal for themselves.”

“It is simply not good enough that retailers who have enormous influence on the food chain can try to dodge their responsibilities. ICSA believes that the low prices in 2019 are a reflection of aggressive procurement policies by both retailers and processors which are pushing farmers to the brink of bankruptcy and many farmers in meat production are in a state of despair.”

“Meanwhile, TESCO cannot ague that it needs to squeeze ever more money out of farmers. The third biggest supermarket chain in the world has posted global profits of over €2.5 billion and has total revenues in Ireland of some €2.6 billion. Farmers are supplying beef to help multinational retailers at a massive loss, and this cannot continue.”

“It is now time for beef price to move above €4/kg in order to prevent any further haemorrhaging of money by Irish beef farmers. Supermarkets who sell Irish beef at current farm-gate price are not supporting farmers, they are exploiting them,” concluded Mr Phelan.

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GLOBAL TRENDS NOT BEING REFLECTED HERE AS SHEEP FARMERS CONTINUE TO BE RIPPED OFF

9 DECEMBER 2019

ICSA sheep chair Sean McNamara has said it is stunning that Irish lamb producers are getting almost 70c/kg less than New Zealand producers, even though we have open access to the EU market and have less transport costs than them. “Our sheep farmers are getting ripped off. When ICSA held protests during the summer outside sheepmeat plants, factory bosses told us that markets for sheepmeat were bad. Amazingly now, markets seem to be booming for everybody else.”

“It’s not just the New Zealanders who are ahead of us. According to Bord Bia, UK producers are getting paid around 35c/kg more and in Spain it’s over €1.20/kg more. Much like in the beef sector, it is extremely frustrating that upward trends in global markets are not being properly reflected here. Although Irish prices have picked up in recent weeks, we are doing very poorly at a time when meat prices are powering ahead internationally, helped by demand from China for animal protein.”

Figures from Bord Bia also indicate that prices have remained practically stagnant for the last ten years. “Year after year, our costs are going up so, year after year, sheep farmers are taking more of a hit. We are being ripped off time and time again and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to see how many of us are going to be able to stay going. All we want is a fair price for our produce.”

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5 CENT A DERISORY OFFER

6 DECEMBER 2019

ICSA beef chair Edmund Graham has said a beef price increase of just 5c is a derisory offer that won’t quell farmer frustration with the current state of beef prices. “The proposed level of this increase by ABP is way below what’s needed. It appears the meat industry is hell bent on dragging out any meaningful price increases for as long as possible.”

“ABP were already back by 5c on the other processors with base prices of just €3.45 for both heifers and steers this week. At that rate, the bulk of any price increase will just go towards getting back on the same low level as the others.”

“The indicators all show that there is no reason why beef price should remain stuck at €3.50/kg or below when markets all over the globe are taking off. We need to see real movement to get our beef prices off the floor if the sector is to have any hope, and time is running out” he said.

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SHEEP PRICES STILL BELOW THE COST OF PRODUCTION DESPITE RECENT INCREASES

6 DECEMBER 2019

ICSA sheep chair Sean McNamara has said sheep farmers are still getting paid below the cost of production despite recent increases. “We need to be getting €5.50 at the very minimum, just to cover our costs.”

“At the end of a bad year, processors need to get real and pay a fair price. We can’t keep going producing at below the cost of production. The figures just don’t stack up.”

Mr McNamara said that the African Swine Fever crisis meant there was huge demand for animal protein in China and that this should be helping prices. “The impact on global pork prices along with the fact that sheepmeat plants in Ireland are now China approved suggests there is plenty of scope to increase sheep prices both in the short-term and into 2020.”

Mr McNamara also said Minister Creed must make a commitment to continue to supporting sheep farmers through the Sheep Welfare Scheme. “The scheme needs to be extended beyond next year and must deliver a significantly higher payment. Higher rates of payment can be facilitated through a bolt-on mechanism to the scheme, which would see sheep farmers rewarded for undertaking additional tasks.” he said

Mr McNamara argues the precedent has been set for this under the Beef Data & Genomics Programme (BDGP) with the addition of the Beef Environmental Efficiency Pilot (BEEP) scheme. “A similar bolt-on action or menu of actions under the Sheep Welfare Scheme would work just as well and deliver more benefits to the sheep sector as a whole.”

ICSA has also called for a BEAM type scheme for sheep farmers, “We have sold fit lambs at below the cost of below the cost of production all year. It’s not just the beef sector that has been badly affected Brexit uncertainty; sheep farmers have been badly hit too and deserve the same compensation measures,” Mr McNamara said.

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SUPERMARKETS MUST INSIST ON A FAIR PRICE TO PRODUCERS

5 DECEMBER 2019

 ICSA beef chairman Edmund Graham has said that supermarkets cannot ignore their responsibilities for the low beef price. “Supermarkets cannot continue to profit on the back of low prices. While a lot of retailers like to boast about supporting Irish farmers, the reality is they are exploiting them if they are buying at below the cost of production. It is now time to call out the ethics of selling beef while farmers lose their shirt. All retailers need to insist that they only sell products that have been bought for a fair price for the primary producer. A fair price is far more than €3.50/kg.”

“ICSA met with senior representatives from ALDI in September where we robustly outlined the losses faced by farmers, and they committed to engaging with the Beef Taskforce. However, this issue is not just about one retailer; it is about all multinational retailers operating in all the main EU markets. Retailers know well that their aggressive price cutting strategies are having horrendous impact on the viability of farmers all across Europe. Beef and sheep farmers are hit particularly hard and the level of depression and frustration among farm families is palpable.”

“Some retailers love to boast about fair trade coffee. It is a shame that they don’t have the same sense of guilt about what their market power and pricing is doing to farmers in Europe.”

“It is manifestly clear that there is no reason why beef price should remain stuck at €3.50/kg when markets all over the globe are taking off, partly driven by the massive deficit in pork in China arising from African Swine Fever. The Bord Bia Beef Market Price Index shows clearly that Irish prices should be rising. Meanwhile, ICSA research into retail values of beef show that retailers and processors can share €1,512 mark-up before costs on a heifer for which the farmer got paid €1,228.

“ICSA raised the issue of the need for more transparency around who makes what from the food chain at the Global Food Forum in Brussels this week. It is not acceptable that so little is known about who makes what from the food chain after product leaves the farm. There has to be transparency in the food chain and this will have to be sorted at national and EU level.”

“However, it is a matter of corporate social responsibility and ethics to return a fair price to producers and it is clear this is not happening at the moment.”

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