22nd January, 2016
ICSA beef chairman Edmond Phelan has welcomed support from other farming organisations in calling for greater regulation of the meat industry and the food chain. ICSA is campaigning for an EU regulator to audit the food chain in relation to key agricultural products such as beef and lamb. “We are also insisting that, at national level, there must be permanent scrutiny of meat plants to monitor issues such as carcass trim, angle of neck cut and an appeals process where farmers are unhappy with grades and fat scores.”
“We also need a permanent mechanism to prevent sudden changes to spec and the creation of what farmers see as spurious reasons to cut prices. We have a situation where Bord Bia Quality Assurance Scheme specifications are not accepted by meat plants and retailers. Instead they add on their own dubious terms and conditions such as age and weight limits and residency requirements. Farmers believe these are just a mechanism to pay farmers less than what they should get.
Hence, I am delighted to see IFA calling for an industry policeman and the Ulster Farmers’ Union calling for an EU supermarket ombudsman to ensure farmers get a bigger slice of the retail cake.”
Mr Phelan said these organisations can call the regulator whatever they wish; a ‘policeman’ as in the case of the IFA and an ‘ombudsman’ as in the case of the UFU. “Either way it is recognition of ICSA’s campaign for transparency along the food chain and in meat factories. This campaign started at the 2014 ploughing championships and is widely supported by farmers. The food chain is not working for beef and sheep farmers. We have seen over-regulation of farmers but hardly any regulation further down the chain.”
“ICSA believes a regulator could investigate exactly who gets what from the food chain. For a long time now the finances of farmers have been very transparent but we know nothing of the margins made by multinational retailers and meat factories continue to make it harder for farmers to achieve a fair price. In our view the farmer does all the work and the processors and retailers get all the profit. This cannot be allowed to continue.” he said.
“Farmers need to be paid a fair price for their produce; it is simply unacceptable for producers and retailers to make the profits they do while farmers must make do with what they’re given. Robust and effective regulation is long overdue,” he concluded.