WEST Cork farmers could potentially have an animal welfare crisis on their hands next Spring unless the beef row is resolved, and fast.
Vice-chair of Cork’s Beef Plan Movement Ger Dineen warned of the far-reaching impacts for the entire agri-community if all stakeholders don’t get back to the table, as protests reumed at ABP Bandon on Tuesday night.
Ger, from Kilnamartyra, highlighted the ripple effect of beef prices not increasing: ‘You’ll see dairy farmers not being unable to sell their Friesian bull calves leaving them with overcrowding problems. Sucklers farmers won’t be able to sell their weanlings to finish either in the coming months because no one will buy them; and in most cases they won’t have housing for them.’
The co-ops are also exposed, he said, as beef farmers like himself won’t be buying feed this winter
‘I’d normally finish off my animals with ration but I’ll be letting them off on grass and so will everyone else as it’s the cheapest option. That will mean co-ops will buy less from the cereal farmer who is now also hit.’
Processing plants are also exposed: ‘Beef farmers won’t be finishing animals over the winter, so the factories won’t be getting animals which might put jobs in danger.
‘What Beef Plan members want is the cost of production, plus a margin. At the moment the cost of production is between €4 and 4.20pkg and we’re getting as little as €3.50.’ He called on all stakeholders to get back to the negotiating table without delay, advice echoed by Drinagh-based Robert Ellis, the West Cork representative on the IFA’s livestock committee.
However, speaking on Cork on Wednesday, Agriculture Minister Michael Creed insisted his door was always open, but added: ‘It’s very difficult to see how we can get stakeholders back to the table when protests are ongoing.’
Small numbers of protestors were coming and going at APB Bandon yesterday, but were not blocking trucks. Larger protests continued elsewhere in the country.
Acknowledging that it was a difficult time for both the beef industry and beef farmers the Minister said: ‘There are over 100,000 farmers who get some level of their income from the beef industry and this is a critical time for them in terms of people who want to sell cattle for slaughter; there’ll also be weanlings coming out for sale from suckler herds in the coming weeks. But of the 100,000 there’s no farming organisation who supports the pickets.’
Sixteen meat plants are being visited by Chinese inspectors this week in a bid to increase beef exports to Beijing. It’s not known if ABP Bandon was among them.’
However, Minister Creed said that new markets needed to be developed because ‘our biggest market, the UK, is in jeopardy over the context of Brexit. And if we proceed in a way that jeopardises that, we will be several years trying to get those opportunities again.’
And regarding the fact that the price of beef is not up for discussion at any talks, the Minister said: ‘The consumer and competition authority has made it abundantly clear that we can’t talk prices, we can’t price-fix. But this is not just a simple price issue, it’s a pan-European issue; and with CAP we’ve moved a long time ago from supporting price to supporting income.’