THE outlook for the beef industry is as bleak as ever according to local famers, despite the conclusion of marathon talks with the relevant stakeholders.
Beef prices continue to be the big sticking point as it could not be negotiated during the 36 hours of talks.
Kilnamartrya beef farmer Ger Dineen, who is also vice chair of Cork’s Beef Movement Plan, said most of the reforms their members sought were not delivered.
Specifically he referred to the 30 month rule which sees farmers get less money for an animal younger than this; the 70 day residency rule which was reduced to 60 days; and the four movement rule.
‘These measures are all anti-competitive and are designed to push the farmer towards the factory and not the mart,’ he said adding that their 700 plus Cork members were ‘on their knees.’
‘We have no income and are giving animals away for nothing which can’t continue. We need to get €4/kg to break even but are only making €3.50 from the factory,’ he said.
He acknowledged a ‘tiny movement’ during talks but added: ‘Overall we’re still very unhappy.’
He explained how for every €10 spent on beef by a consumer the farmer got €2 for two years work; the processor got €3 for two weeks work while the supermarket earned €5 after the product had only been on the shelf a few days.
‘We are just not getting our fair share and that is still not addressed. We’re coming up to the biggest kill of the year, when cows come off grass in September and October and prices are as crazy as ever,’ he added.
‘Our backs are to the wall, farmers can’t pay their bills and are desperate.’
The Beef Plan Movement will now consult their members before deciding on their next move. There has of yet been no mention of protests resuming at meat plants including at Bandon’s ABP.
IFA President Joe Healy agreed that farmers will be disappointed on the limited progress on the issue of beef price increases.
ICSA president Edmond Phelan added: ‘Our hands were tied regarding price from the outset. We could negotiate, but not on price, and when price is the only thing that really matters, that was problematic.’
He said he was disappointed that no additional money will be put in farmers pockets as a result of the beef talks.
Meanwhile, Meat Industry Ireland (MII) said they were ‘pleased that a wide ranging agreement’ had been reached.
However, they recognised ‘that the current very weak beef market and the consequential knock-on impact on producer beef prices remains a major pressure point in the sector.’