The provision of written terms of sale to farmers selling cattle to meat factories would avoid disagreements over price, Beef Plan founder Eamon Corley has said.
Since our publication in June of the case of a Limerick farmer who was quoted one price over the phone by an agent but was paid a lesser amount when he received his cheque, several farmers have contacted the Farming Independent with similar stories.
Mr Corley said the provision of written terms of sale when requested were among the measures consented to by meat processors as part of the Task Force agreement and would avoid a lot of these issues.
However, he claimed it hadn’t been honoured by the factories.
“While it is disappointing that factories didn’t honour this — and equally disappointing that the Department and the Task Force representatives weren’t strong enough to ensure that factories honour their commitments — it wouldn’t be seen as a priority issue by Beef Plan that could help sort out the wrongs in the beef industry,” he said.
The Farming Independent contacted the three largest meat processors this week as to whether they provide farmers with written terms of sale when requested.
Both Kepak and ABP confirmed that they did, while Dawn Meats did not respond.
Adding to the confusion and disagreement over price, Mr Corley said, was the complexity of the grid payment system and other factors such as carcass weights, fat score and age that different factories take into consideration when pricing cattle.
“If a farmer’s cattle end up on the wrong side of a line for any of these considerations that usually explains the difference in the price,” he said.
Weight limits are another area where Mr Corley highlighted meat processors’ commitments under the beef sector agreement in 2019.
“Factories were supposed to flag to farmers three months in advance as part of the agreement,” he said, adding that the Beef Taskforce failed to nail this one down.
“Factories are still changing weight limits without notice, and weight limits across all factories are different. It is no wonder that many farmers are finding it difficult to understand their price.”