BEEF ON THE BRINK – ICSA PRESIDENT CALLS FOR BREXIT INTERVENTION CLARITY AT ICSA AGM & ANNUAL CONFERENCE

31 JANUARY 2019

ICSA national president Patrick Kent has today said “The Government must be forthcoming with details of the emergency aid it intends to seek for the beef sector from the EU in the event of a no-deal Brexit.”

Mr Kent was addressing Minister Michael Creed and members of the ICSA National Executive at ICSA’s AGM and Annual Conference which took place in Portlaoise today (31 January 2019).

Beef on the Brink formed the theme of the conference and Mr Kent focused on the need for clarity on the nature and scope of the emergency aid that can be expected should a no-deal Brexit come to pass. “Market panic has already impacted the price of beef and we cannot allow this uncertainty to continue. Farmers have been operating in a vacuum while factories have been taking advantage,” he said.

Mr Kent called on the Minister for a “backstop for beef.” He said ICSA supports the call for emergency EU measures to take out our surplus beef via intervention or aids to private storage but the lack of clarity is causing panic around what price beef will be in 2019. “We need a commitment to put a realistic floor under the price of beef with a trigger price that ensures that current prices cannot be allowed to fall any further.”

Mr Kent said the days of supermarkets and processors exploiting farmers based on false costs of production must also end. He said a recent assessment of the cost of production per kg of beef shows the average cost to be in the range of €5 to €5.30. “These figures bring a sense of reality to the discussion by including a rate for the farmer’s labour. There is no other industry where the cost of production ignores basic labour costs and we will no longer countenance Teagasc pontificating on the cost of production unless they have included the cost of farmers’ own labour.”

Mr Kent also said that the time has come for a comprehensive review of the beef grid. “We want it simplified, more straightforward. When a farmer sends cattle to the factory, they need clarity not confusion on what each beast will make. We want to see better bonuses for U grade cattle and this should be paid for by higher penalties on P grade cattle. All O grade cattle should qualify for QA bonus as should quality cows and young bulls, but not P grade cattle of any category.”

“An examination of the actual costs of production per kg of beef illustrates that buying P or O grade calves when beef price is at €3.75 for R grades is completely unviable. This is why we believe that the dairy expansion must be re-evaluated and the only rational conclusion for the beef sector is that we need to reduce production. We need to do this to cut costs and to make product scarcer and we need to keep going down the road of reducing production until price cuts are reversed.”

“We also must do much more to help live exports. ICSA wants to see every effort made to assist live exporters. Huge state efforts have been put into supporting new markets for beef but there must be a full commitment to do the same for live exports. We need to ensure that there is no red tape hindering the live export trade.”

“We also need a strategy to market suckler beef as a premium niche product, grass fed and distinct from grain fed feedlot beef. We cannot condone the Taoiseach of the country saying he is reducing his meat consumption on health or climate change grounds. These arguments are spurious and Ireland, as one of the world’s leading exporters of beef and a significant producer of lamb cannot allow this propaganda to go unchecked.”

“At ICSA, we believe that CAP reform will have to reflect the fact that no livestock production system is profitable at the moment and for that reason we need to return to the idea of extensification as a pillar of CAP payments. ICSA also supports capping payments with no loophole for employees on industrial farms because the CAP must support family farms first and foremost.”

“We also want to see a Pillar 2 scheme where we have an agri-environment scheme that looks a lot more like REPS and a lot less like GLAS. In short, we want Pillar 2 schemes that mean that the farmer who participates can see a real benefit over the farmer that doesn’t.”

Mr Kent said he was pleased to see that the Department has finally taken action on the issue of carcass trim supervision. He said however that, “Now it is also time to ensure the exact same scrutiny in sheep meat plants. ICSA has raised concerns that there are different kill out rates being reported in different sheep factories and we need the same Department scrutiny for the sheep sector as the beef sector.”

Mr Kent welcomed the publication of an organic strategy highlighted the need for a much more ambitious strategy to better market our organic meats and capitalise much more on the potential.

He said ICSA is fully opposed to making the TB history available on mart boards and will remain committed to this position at the TB stakeholder forum.

Mr Kent reiterated the association’s stance that a stronger line on rural crime is needed and that the Government get to grips with escalating insurance costs which is a real problem for all businesses including farmers and marts.

ENDS