Farming

| 15.1°C Dublin

Margaret Donnelly: Factories must realise that beef margins are pushing farmers to the brink of ruin

Viewpoint

Close

Protest: Farmers picketing outside Dawn Meats plant in Grannagh. Photo: Eamonn Farrell

Protest: Farmers picketing outside Dawn Meats plant in Grannagh. Photo: Eamonn Farrell

RollingNews.ie

President Michael D Higgins at the National Ploughing Championships (Niall Carson/PA)

President Michael D Higgins at the National Ploughing Championships (Niall Carson/PA)

/

Protest: Farmers picketing outside Dawn Meats plant in Grannagh. Photo: Eamonn Farrell

The sun shone for the three days of the Ploughing last week - a welcome relief for everyone after Storm Ali caused carnage at last year's event. Farmers, for the most part, were in good form, with record crowds turning up in Carlow.

Much of the talk revolved around the beef protests as ministers, farming organisations and even President Higgins tried to persuade those still on the picket lines at the factory gates to return to negotiations.

The vast majority of farmers we spoke to at the Ploughing want normality to resume, even if beef prices are still on the floor.

A small number, however, used the event to highlight their genuine concerns that the threat to the future of small beef farmers is also a threat to the backbone of many parts of rural Ireland.

There's no doubting that, but the fact is a very small number of people, and possibly not all of them farmers, were holding the rest of the sector to ransom.

Farmers who said the protests should continue were vastly outnumbered by those looking for a return to normality.

The reality is that beef markets are not returning the prices to justify more than €3.50/kg.

And the fear is this situation may get worse. A no-deal Brexit has the potential to decimate the beef sector, simple as that. Damaging our relationships with other markets and buyers has the potential to destroy the entire industry.

Margins

There has been much debate in recent weeks over margins, and farmers' share of the retail beef price.

What is undeniable is that farmers' current share is not enough to provide them with a sustainable income.

The processors and supermarkets must realise that the current system is pushing their farmer suppliers to the brink of ruin.

Farmers cannot continue producing cattle at current low price levels; it just doesn't make economic sense.

The factories, in particular, must also understand that they need farmers as much as the farmers need them.

Beef farmers deserve a better price for their beef, and the country needs farmers.

But the question must be asked: if beef farmers cannot make money at market prices, should they be subsidised, and by how much?

Indo Farming