29th January, 2013
While welcoming the outcome of the Department investigations which showed that Polish meat was the source of the horse meat contamination, Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association president Gabriel Gilmartin said that farmers have been let down by industry and that many questions were still unanswered.
“ICSA believes that a full and comprehensive explanation is owed to farmers who have put so much effort into traceability. Many farmers have gone further by participating in the Beef Quality Assurance Scheme. Yet key questions remain unanswered:
• Why was Polish meat going into Irish beef burgers, even though Ireland is the largest exporter of beef in the Northern hemisphere?
• Why do some supermarkets charge 3 or 4 times more for a packet of chewing gum than for a burger which might be the main meal for the family? Do they think that this is a sustainable proposition for consumers?
• Why is the Department now putting a full time presence into Silvercrest- is this an admission that there hasn’t been enough scrutiny of processing units?
• Would the Minister accept that there has been too much focus on farms and not enough on the rest of the food chain, in relation to traceability and quality assurance?
• Are there any other processing units importing ingredients, such as meat, for inclusion in meat products that are sold here or exported?
• Was the ABP group aware of the fact that Polish raw material was being imported by Silvercrest?
• What effect has the importation of foreign ingredients had on keeping Irish beef price static when UK price was increasing throughout 2012?
“ICSA welcomes the new stringent terms that will apply but Irish farmers will feel very let down by what has happened. The Department must learn the lesson that there has been too much focus on farmers and not enough on meat processors. Farmers see that lame or injured cattle are rejected in factories but meanwhile meat was being imported from Poland where standards seemed completely different.”
ICSA beef chairman Edmond Phelan has slammed factories who are trying to panic farmers into selling cattle too cheaply. He said that he had heard of quotes for bulls down by 10c and heifer quotes back 5c. However, he advised farmers that they should resist factory efforts to create a scare. “Steers and cows are still steady and farmers must stand up to ensure that we don’t get the bill for what went on further down the food chain. Meat plants should be looking at recovering their losses from their Polish suppliers, not farmers.”