Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Thursday 26 April 2018

Coveney under fire for 'poor' handling of beef price crisis

Questions: Minister Coveney with Anna May McHugh, NPA Managing Director, and Junior Minister Tom Hayes at last week’s Ploughing.
Questions: Minister Coveney with Anna May McHugh, NPA Managing Director, and Junior Minister Tom Hayes at last week’s Ploughing.
Click to see a bigger version of the graphic
Click to see a bigger version of the graphic
Declan O'Brien

Declan O'Brien

Minister Coveney's performance on the beef crisis has been lambasted by farmers.

A Farming Independent survey carried out at the National Ploughing Championships found that 63.5pc of 1,009 respondents felt that the Minister for Agriculture's reaction to the beef crisis was either 'fairly poor' or 'very poor'.

Drystock farmers were particularly dissatisfied with the minister's performance. Two-thirds, or 66pc, of the 455 drystock farmers surveyed described Minister Coveney's response to the collapse in beef prices over the last year as either 'fairly poor' or 'very poor'.

For the survey, farmers were asked how they would rate Minister Coveney's response to the beef crisis.

In reply, 29pc of respondents said the minister's performance was 'very poor', with 34.5pc rating it as 'fairly poor', 22.5pc as 'satisfactory', 11pc as 'fairly good' and 2pc as 'very good'.

When the replies of drystock farmers are looked at separately, 35pc rated the minister's response to the crisis as 'very poor', with 31pc classing it as 'fairly poor'. Twenty percent said it was 'satisfactory', 11pc rated the minister's performance as 'fairly good', while just 3pc described it as 'very good'.

Dairy farmers also registered their anger at the fall-off in cattle prices, with 63pc describing Minister Coveney's response to the crisis as either 'fairly poor' or 'very poor', while 23pc said it was 'satisfactory'. Fourteen percent of dairy farmers rated the minister's actions on beef as 'fairly good' or 'very good'.

Full-time farmers were particularly critical of Minister Coveney. Sixty-nine percent of full-time operators rated his response to the beef crisis as 'fairly poor' or 'very poor', while the figure for part-time farmers was 62pc.

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In addition, just 11pc of full-time farmers rated the minister's action on beef as 'fairly good' or 'very good', while the same figure for part-time farmers was 16pc. Over the last year the price paid for finished stock has fallen by between €200 and €300 a head.

While the factories have blamed falling beef consumption and reduced returns from the market for the drop in prices, an ICSA analysis of British retail prices found that prices for the vast majority of cuts were generally unchanged over the last 12 months. However, returns to farmers have fallen by over €160m in that period.

Meanwhile, the IFA this week called called on Minister Coveney to immediately convene and chair a meeting involving the farm organisations and meat factories to tackle specific beef sector issues.

The IFA is calling for:

• Re-instatement of the Quality Payment System and beef price grid;

• Increasing the level of contracts and premium payments from the factories to assist winter finishers, bull beef finishers and other higher risk production systems;

• The appointment of an independent Department of Agriculture inspector in each meat plant to oversee carcase trim, weights and mechanical classification;

• Support for the suckler cow sector with higher targeted direct payments through GLAS, DAS and CAP pillar II supports

• Support for the Irish beef sector against the threat of more Third Country imports.

Indo Farming