Beef cuts cost farmers €168m

ICSA president Patrick Kent.
ICSA president Patrick Kent.
Declan O'Brien

Declan O'Brien

Beef price cuts by the factories have cost Irish farmers €168m over the past 12 months, the ICSA has claimed.

The stockowners association maintained that the price cuts represented a direct transfer of income from hard-pressed beef farmers to processors and retailers.

Over the last 12 months finished cattle prices have fallen by over€250/hd. However, the ICSA pointed out that the retail price for beef in Britain during that period had actually increased, while the factories have also benefitted from a 10pc hike in the value of sterling against the euro. ICSA president Patrick Kent accused meat processors and retailers of using an increase in supplies over the last year to "rip off" beef farmers. "Retailers and processors have absolutely abused a slight increase in supply to drive farmers close to the brink of bankruptcy, while the consumer in England is actually paying more for beef today than 12 months ago," Mr Kent said.

"Our analysis shows that the most popular cuts such as mince have increased by some 14pc over the past 12 months, while even the more expensive cuts are holding their own or are marginally dearer," Mr Kent claimed.

"Moreover, the purchasing power of British retailers has actually increased, as it now only requires 79p sterling to buy one euro worth of goods compared with 87p this time last year," he added.


Mr Kent expressed astonishment at what he described as "relaxed approach" of the Irish Government to the beef price cuts.

"Our analysis really means that it will not be possible for the Government to wash their hands any further when it comes to the rip- off of farmers. Apart from the loss to farmers, there are knock-on losses to local rural economies in every county in Ireland as farmers' purchasing power declines substantially," the ICSA president said.

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"However, the Government really needs to wake up to the fact that this actually involves a re-appropriation of capital out of the Irish economy and into the hands of multinational British-based retailers. Given that British consumers are paying more for beef now than 12 months ago, the cut of €168m has obviously been shared out between processors and retailers," Mr Kent said.

The ICSA leader again called for a re-evaluation of the Bord Bia quality assurance scheme, claiming that the scheme benefitted processors and retailers far more than farmers, and that it was being manipulated by the processors as part of a strategy to drive down prices and remove competition from mart ringsides.

Meanwhile, ICMSA president John Comer has called on Bord Bia to outline the benefits quality assurance accreditation is delivering to producers of prime beef animals supplied to the country's 24 beef export plants.

Bord Bia board member, John Comer - is demanding weekly publication of the percentage of steers and heifers supplied to each of the meat factories which qualify for, and are paid, the 12c/kg QA bonus.

He described the linking of the quality payment system (QPS) and quality assurance (QA) at the factories as deliberately confusing.

"Despite the fact that Bord Bia acknowledges that 87pc of all finished beef are now supplied from Bord Bia certified farms, the perception among farmers is that the percentage of animals on which the QA bonus is being paid is significantly lower and farmers need more clarity that the scheme is delivering real benefits to them if they are to continue to support it," Mr Comer said.

He claimed the Department of Agriculture receive returns from the factories each week detailing grade/price paid for each animal slaughtered - a useful summary of which is released each Wednesday - and it is not asking too much that the QA details be included.

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