ICSA president Edmond Phelan has welcomed comments by Tanaiste Simon Coveney that a regulator for the beef sector might be a serious runner, five years after he rejected such a proposal by ICSA when he was agriculture minister. “We welcome the Tanaiste’s late conversion to our regulator idea even if it would have been much better if he had taken action when he was agriculture minister.”

“ICSA proposed a regulator for the beef sector back in 2014 to the then Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney, at the ploughing. Our specific points were that the QA bonus was being manipulated by factories to undermine competition for cattle and to undermine marts. We also raised serious questions about ensuring fair play for farmers in terms of grading, level of trim and general scrutiny of what was going on behind meat factory doors.”

“Unfortunately, Simon Coveney rejected our suggestion saying that we couldn’t allow any negative perceptions of the beef industry to emerge. Sadly, that lack of determination to face down the meat processors at that time has indirectly led to the current catastrophe for the beef sector. For too long, politicians from various political parties have been afraid to take on the beef barons and have allowed them to progressively make things worse and worse for farmers. Meanwhile, such inaction has allowed supermarkets and processors to make ever greater profits off the back of the primary producer.”

“However, Simon Coveney’s comments about the need for a regulator are better late than never. ICSA believes we need compulsory audits of who makes what from the food chain and complete transparency over what profits are being made, not only on beef, but on all the fifth quarter products as well.  Back at one of the original beef roundtable talks in 2014-15, ICSA alleged that the fifth quarter was worth at least €150 per animal but we were laughed at by meat factory representatives and neither the Minister nor other farm representatives at the time supported us on this.”

“We now believe that the fifth quarter is worth €200 per animal which is a massive bonus compared to twenty years ago when it was a net cost. However, farmers have not seen a red cent of all the money being made from offal, energy and cosmetics by the beef industry and it is now time for a full audit of this to determine what is a fair share for farmers.”