17 DECEMBER 2020
ICSA president Edmond Phelan has said that he is extremely disappointed with the Grant Thornton report on Market and Customer Requirements of Irish Beef, which was discussed at today’s Beef Taskforce (Thursday 17 Dec). “The report does not provide any evidence of independent measurement of consumer preferences in any market. Instead, we are asked to believe a limited overview of interviews with stakeholders, predominantly in the UK, who are scrambling to find varied dubious justifications for maintaining the 30 months and 4 residencies penalties.”
“Whereas the report accepts that the genesis of the 30-month rule comes from a panic from twenty years ago about BSE, which turned out to be totally blown out of proportion, it now seems that some retailers are trying to justify the 30-month on the basis of an evolving perception within the market that finishing cattle earlier is supportive of the green agenda without the need to reduce the volume of cattle being slaughtered.”
This comment in the report is not backed up with any published research nor is there any evidence that consumers believe this. You could just as easily argue that grass-fed, slower-finished cattle that do not require substantial imports of grain from outside the EU are better for the environment.
“In any event, Irish farmers are not the ones who import beef from South America.”
Mr Phelan told the Beef Taskforce that he was astonished that the report suggests that other European markets are exhibiting more satisfactory performance in achieving desired animal welfare performance. “Who made this allegation and what is the evidence for it?”
Mr Phelan told the Taskforce that Irish agriculture was built around movements. “Suckler and dairy farmers are not generally in a position to finish beef cattle so that’s just not possible. Movements are part of our system and we need to explain that this is not a welfare issue.”
ICSA challenged the meat processors to explain why factory prices have been so poor in the second half of this year compared to the price fat cattle are making in the marts. “Our price has fallen well behind the UK price and it does not reflect the big increase in demand at retail level for beef. Even allowing for catering market disruption, the gap between UK and Irish farmer price has expanded substantially.”
ICSA asked for an update on when the Food Ombudsman would be set up. The Department said that the extra remit for the Ombudsman which is not provided for in the EU Unfair Trading Practices directive would require primary legislation which was being progressed.