14 SEPTEMBER 2020
ICSA has made a comprehensive submission to the National Opposition Procedure for the application for a PGI status for “Irish Grass Fed Beef” by Bord Bia. ICSA suckler committee chairman Ger O’Brien explained that “ICSA opposes the one size fits all application because it is too diluted and undermines the potential to get a premium price for specialist suckler beef production.”
He added that ICSA, as an officially recognised representative association of suckler and beef farmers, has a legitimate interest in the application and ICSA is concerned about the future viability of the suckler sector.
“This application represents a missed opportunity to build a brand around suckler beef. It is a less intensive farming system with much lower use of medicines and outside interventions. It offers the highest level of animal welfare and it is critical to the economies of disadvantaged areas.”
“ICSA contends that the concept and purpose of a speciality designation is to achieve a premium price for a special and unique product. In order to satisfy the demands of beef processors and dairy farmers, the outcome is that the potential to achieve a premium price for suckler beef is compromised.”
ICSA is opposing this application on the following grounds:
- The inclusion of most dairy derived beef means that it is too diluted to achieve a premium price for suckler beef.
- There has been insufficient consultation with the primary producer.
- There is no clarity about the ownership of the PGI. PGI is primarily about delivering a better return to a group of producers but this application is completely vague about to whom or how the benefits will accrue.
- The EU Commission has suggested that these designations typically return a premium of 30%. However, Bord Bia has played down any ambition for a premium price and suggested it might be worth 5%. This is no good for suckler farmers and there is a real fear that the PGI application, in its current format will end up being a bolt-on to the BQAS which is already very contentious due to the addition of spurious in-spec requirements by beef factories (such as the four residencies, 30 months etc).
- The creation of a generic PGI for grass fed beef is totally incoherent with the promise by Bord Bia to develop a suckler or natural beef brand and if it goes though in its current format, it will signal the end of any determined effort to brand suckler beef as a speciality product.
- The exclusion of R&U grade young bulls (under 16 months) further disadvantages the suckler sector and this has not been properly consulted on.
- Farmers feel aggrieved that there has been too much weight given to the interests of processors whereas the primary beneficiary of a PGI should be the primary producers.
- The starting point of an application must be firmly rooted in the objective of getting a premium and viable price for suckler beef, even if this premium price is limited in scope to a certain quantity. It is absolutely unacceptable to dilute this potential by including potentially all the off-spring of 1.5 million dairy cows.
- There has not been sufficient explanation of the colour requirements for the meat and fat and this cannot be used by meat processors as a means to deny any premium and penalise farmers.
- There is a fear that additional bureaucracy will be imposed on all farmers but with very little upside in terms of price.
- There is a lack of detail around the concentrate feeding of animals. Although it refers to 90% grass or grass based feed, it is silent on the issue of whether Irish grains are to be used or whether imported GM feeds from South America are acceptable. This further militates against a truly unique PGI which is different from other EU countries.
- There has been failure to adequately consider the interests of beef breed societies.
- There is no dedicated oversight process or board to manage the PGI in which the interests of farmers can be protected, in line with the concept of PGI which is producer focused. Therefore, there should be a steering group/ board with majority farmer representation.
In conclusion, ICSA submits that this PGI application has failed to allocate sufficient weight to the need for using PGI status as a targeted intervention to deliver a premium price for suckler beef farmers.
ICSA is therefore insisting that there needs to be a full consultation with farmer representatives to agree a strategy for PGI going forward before this application is progressed any further and is therefore objecting to it in its current format.