Beef Forum could solve the grid lock

Declan O'Brien

Declan O'Brien

The beef grid continues to provoke heated debate in farming circles, with the IFA and the factories struggling to convince farmers of the new system's merits.

Both Meat Industry Ireland (MII) and the IFA contend that the system will deliver benefits for the beef industry and are adamant that the sector's current difficulties cannot be blamed solely on the grid.

In response to a broadside from the ICMSA this week, MII director Cormac Healy reiterated that the quality payment system (QPS) reflects the requirements of the marketplace and gives clear market signals to farmers.

He also claimed that more than 80pc of steers and 75pc of heifers are falling into desired fat covers and are therefore not subject to penalties.

This assertion would be strongly contested by many farmers who have delivered stock for slaughter since the grid's introduction.

But maybe MII has the figures to back it up.

However, Mr Healy was right when he said that attempts to confuse the QPS with abysmal beef prices were misleading.

Farmers are far from happy with the price being paid at the moment, but beef prices and the beef pricing system are two different issues.

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That the two have become so closely entwined, however, can hardly be a surprise to those championing the QPS, given that the figure on the factory cheque is the only one that really matters to those delivering stock.

Given the extent of farmer opposition to the grid, and with calls from some within the IFA for an independent audit of the system, maybe the time has come for mediation.

To date, the Department and Minister Smith have kept clear of the controversy but their intervention would surely be beneficial at this stage. Reconvening the Beef Forum may be an option. It was established to iron out difficulties in the sector and provide a blueprint for the industry, so surely the grid should fall under its remit.

Irish Independent

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