Beef is 'rural heartbeat' but Minister can't force up price
BEEF is "the heartbeat of the rural economy", but you can't force supermarkets in Barcelona or Berlin to pay more for it, Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney said.
Ireland exports nearly 90pc of the beef it produces, making farmers here vulnerable to international price changes, he said.
The Irish Farmers Association is demanding higher prices from Irish factories following recent increases in UK prices.
Mr Coveney said Irish beef output had increased 15pc this year which, combined with weaker prices, had resulted in difficulties.
"But there will be years when the opposite happens like what happened last year when we had an all-time high in terms of beef prices, so we need to try and insulate our industry as best we can from the bad years to ensure that they are benefiting in the good years," he said.
He said that "most Irish beef is consumed and purchased outside Ireland so I'm not going to be able to influence a retailer in Barcelona or in Paris or Berlin to pay more for Irish beef when they can source beef from elsewhere". However the EU could work to ensure farmers always got a fair share of the supermarket price, he said, while two-thirds of the €12.5bn in EU farm funding would go to the beef sector.
"So beef is a huge priority for me. It's the heartbeat of the rural economy - 100,000 of the 130,000 farm families get some income from beef."
He accused Fianna Fail's Eamon O'Cuiv of "auction politics" and "plucking a figure out of the sky" in demanding a €200 payment per animal under the beef genomics programme.