Meat processors play down beef grid revamp speculation
Meat Industry Ireland (MII) has denied that a total revamp of the beef grid or QPS was being considered, but the processor representative body accepted that some changes to the cattle payment system were needed.
Responding to queries from the Farming Independent, MII director Cormac Healy said there were no immediate plans to alter the price differentials between the various grades of cattle in order to increase payments for quality stock.
However, Mr Healy did not rule out changes to the grid structure in the future.
"The QPS is an earnest attempt to reward quality and maybe it needs to move a bit further, as many producers have been calling for," he said.
This is the second time in a fortnight that MII has indicated that it was open to some level of change in grid payments.
Mr Healy stated in last week's Farming Independent that producer calls for increased price differentials between grades might have to be heeded "given the pressure in suckler beef production" and the "changed structure of the national herd".
The IFA confirmed that it is in discussions with processors regarding returns to beef farmers, but said that an overall renegotiation of the grid was not taking place.
"IFA is clear that farmers must get rewarded for quality," said IFA livestock chairman Angus Woods.
"We are working with Bord Bia and some of the processors to drive an additional premium for suckler beef."
Meanwhile, IFA president Joe Healy has accused the meat factories of "profiteering on the back of beef farmers", and claimed that a €200/hd differential had opened up between Irish and British prices.
He said there was growing anger among farmers over the way factories continued to keep a lid on prices, despite strong returns from the British market.
Mr Healy said the factories needed to immediately increase prices to €4.00/kg.
While he said some farmers secured a base of €3.80/kg for steers and €3.90/kg for heifers this week, prices generally held at last week's levels of €3.75/kg for bullocks and €3.85 for heifers.
Mr Healy said British cattle prices were currently at £3.73/kg for an R3 grade steer. This is equivalent to €4.42/kg (VAT inclusive) and represented a price gap between Irish and UK prices of €200/hd.
"This shows that the factories are not returning a fair market price to farmers and could pay a lot more," Mr Healy said.
IFA's Angus Woods said Agriculture Minister Michael Creed needed to do more to assist the live export trade and get exports moving again to Turkey and other markets.
"IFA has put specific proposals to Minister Creed and the Department of Agriculture to assist the live export trade, enable the trade to secure more contracts, drive competition and [secure] additional market outlets for livestock," he said.
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