16 APRIL 2019
ICSA president Patrick Kent has called for a Brexit support package from Brussels for beef farmers who have struggled, and are continuing to struggle, with the impact of Brexit uncertainty fallout. “For beef producers Brexit has already effectively happened. While supports in the event of a no-deal Brexit have been mooted, the extension to October just prolongs the uncertainty. The beef sector needs a rescue package from Brussels now and the Government must strongly push for this,” he said.
Mr Kent was addressing the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine on The Future of the Beef Sector in the Context of Food Wise 2025 in the Dáil this afternoon.
Continuing Mr Kent said, “ICSA estimates that prime beef producers are losing almost €4 million a week on steers, heifers and young bulls compared to 2015, the last full year before Brexit. The base price today of €3.70 for an R grade steer is way below the real cost of production estimated to be at least €5/kg if we allow for a farmer’s own labour cost.
Mr Kent said that a package from Brussels should be directly linked to cattle slaughtered by winter finishers. Their losses in terms of price compared to last year varies but is typically in the order of €75-100/hd on heifers but can be as much as €200/hd on a typical young bull with account taken of price cut and weight penalties.
Mr Kent insisted the margins of all players along the food chain need to be subject to audit and full transparency. ICSA believes that Ireland should be pushing for an EU level auditor to audit and publish who makes the profit from beef and to expose retailers or processors who take excess margin from the food chain.
He said beef farmers have not seen a single cent of extra income from expanded agri-food exports as a result of Food Wise 2025. “The Food Wise plan was to expand agri-food exports from €10 billion to €19 billion by 2025, but there was zero focus on how to expand the income of beef farmers. Now the sector is in crisis and the level of despondency is palpable,” he said.
ICSA Beef chair Edmund Graham said attaining a Protected Geographic Indication (PGI) status for speciality suckler beef must be a priority. He said it must “underpin a strategy to develop a high value suckler brand, built around the ethos of biodiversity, high animal welfare and low carbon emissions per hectare which would deliver a better return for primary producers.”
Mr Graham impressed upon the committee that the current price grid needs to be reviewed. He said, “ICSA favours a simplified grid, with real and worthwhile bonuses for U grade cattle. He said the association also wants to see an end to the abuse of the quality assurance scheme by meat factories and an end to artificial devices for squeezing price such as age, weight and residency conditions.”