'It is time for farmers to fight back' - ICSA protest outside ABP clones

ICSA members protest at ABP Clones
ICSA members protest at ABP Clones
Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers Association (ICSA) have protested outside ABP in Clones this morning to reflect what they describe as farmer anger at continuous cuts in beef price by meat factories. 

The ICSA says farmers in the beef sector have been crucified by beef price cuts in a year when farmers have substantial extra costs due to extreme weather.

ICSA beef chairman Edmund Graham said farmers cannot continue to produce beef at current prices.

 “It is beyond belief that in a year like this, when farmers are on their knees with extra cost arising from a fodder crisis that the meat industry would seek to increase profits on the back of farmers.”

“There has been an orchestrated effort to drive down price at a rate of 5c/kg/week. The current price of €3.70/kg is totally inadequate when costs of production are at least €4.40/kg for cattle from the dairy herd.  Meanwhile, the suckler herd is not profitable unless price is closer to €5/kg.”

“It is time for farmers to fight back. We cannot go on working for nothing and risking substantial capital finishing cattle especially as we enter the expensive winter finishing period.” 

ICSA Protest at ABP Clones in Monaghan
ICSA Protest at ABP Clones in Monaghan

Mr Graham was also highly critical of the failure of new International markets to deliver strong prices for farmers. “Compared to five years ago we have seen the opening of markets in the USA, China, South East Asia and this week Kuwait. Yet there has been no benefit to farmers and prices today are weaker than five years ago.”

“Meat factories and retailers love to talk about sustainable systems of beef production. ICSA believes that unless cattle farmer incomes are economically sustainable, all the rest is just pie in the sky.”

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“The meat industry cannot be allowed drive farmers out of business. ICSA believes it is an unacceptable element of the sector that meat factories are using their own feedlots to manipulate price. The price cutting is also a way of subduing store cattle price with a view to getting cheaper cattle for their own feedlots.”

“ICSA is sending out a strong message that farmers cannot stand idly by as their livelihoods are being decimated.  Further action cannot be ruled out.”

Meat Industry Ireland has said that recent criticism of cattle prices does not fairly reflect the strong price paid throughout the year, with Irish cattle price running at 107pc of EU average price year-to-date.

"Nor does it reflect the challenging market environment at play since mid-summer across Northern Europe," Director Cormac Healy said.

He said year-to-date price paid for Irish cattle remains ahead of last year and only in the last two weeks have current prices dropped below the corresponding period last year.

"This situation prevails against a background of an additional 45,000 – 50,000 cattle processed this year compared to 2017. This higher volume coincides with an already well supplied EU market caused by higher than normal culling rates due to drought earlier in the year as well as an increase in import volumes into the EU of some 14pc, primarily from competitively priced beef from Brazil and Argentina.

"These imports target the higher value steak market and displace EU product and undermine market return. Market demand has not responded to these exceptionally high levels of supply, putting pressure, in particular on manufacturing beef prices.

"On the UK market, while export volumes remain strong, independent data on overall retail beef sales in the UK shows both the volume and value of beef sales down by 4pc in the latest reported period and volumes down by 2pc in the last 12 months. This would indicate that less beef is moving through the higher value, retail, end of the business,” he said.

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