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Saturday 16 February 2019

Beef crisis: Economist to undertake root-and-branch investigation of beef sector

What a dry time for feeding outdoors, this suckler herd of cows relax after feeding on kale and silage. Photo Roger Jones.
What a dry time for feeding outdoors, this suckler herd of cows relax after feeding on kale and silage. Photo Roger Jones.

Martin Ryan

A wide-ranging review of the beef sector is being undertaken by the IFA in reaction to growing concerns about the viability of suckler beef farming.

The Association's national council has approved a new investigation of the beef sector with a brief to establish "if there is money in it and where it is" as producer incomes plummet.

Economist and consultant, Jim Power, is being commissioned to carry out the root-and-branch analysis, from farm to factories and retailers, to trace the cash flow.

The role of Bord Bia, which is being funded to the tune of €40m a year from the sector, will also be analysed.

The IFA move is also being interpreted as a response to the growing momentum of the Beef Plan Group, headed by former IFA national livestock committee member, Eamon Corley (Meath).

The group, which has registered as a company over recent days, has targeted a membership of 40,000 with current membership being put at 15,000.

The group claims to have the support of seven breed societies and aim to have county committees in place in most counties over the coming months.

Meetings were held in counties Clare and Donegal last week with attendances of up to 400 reported to have included a good percentage of young farmers who feel disillusioned by the current state of the sector.

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IFA members are to be invited to make submissions to the review process and the association is to give membership the assurance that all the views expressed will be carefully weighed for their merit towards restoring a reasonable income for beef producers.

IFA national treasurer Tim Cullinan said that the difficulties being experienced by beef farmers are posing a challenge to the organisation.

He said the study must determine if there is a margin in beef and if a reasonable share of that margin is being returned to primary producers.

Mr Cullinan predicted that the review would be one of the most detailed ever undertaken by the association into beef farming, processing and retailing.

Meanwhile, Bord Bia has warned that South American beef imports to the EU could pose an increasing threat to Irish beef.

Bord Bia beef specialist Mark Zieg said that imports from South America into the EU increased sharply last year, with supplies from Brazil up 22pc and Argentina 40pc higher.

Vulnerable

Mr Zieg said Argentina is "aggressively targeting" the EU market, with beef exports to the EU set to rise by 15pc for 2019.

He said such a move puts Ireland in a vulnerable position given the possibility of a Mercosur deal being secured which would further increase EU market access for South American beef.

"It's something that we need to be watching very strongly. We have seen a couple of successive years of Argentina increasing their overall exports.

"They grew by 207,000 tonnes in 2018 and are forecasting less growth this year but are still there at 75,000 tonnes," he told the Farming Independent.

In other beef news, production at meat factories is expected to get back to normal this week following an agreement by vets to end their work to rule action in the factories.

The Department of Agriculture and Veterinary Ireland have agreed new proposals for the meat inspection service. The proposals will be balloted on by vets this month and a result is expected in early February.

Indo Farming





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