Farm Ireland

Thursday 26 April 2018

Factories confirm fat penalties hike

Dawn Meats to end 6c/kg concession and other processors to follow

Martin Ryan

The factory penalty on higher fat score steers and heifers will be increased by 6c/kg within a fortnight.

Dawn Meats has confirmed that a concession on the 6c/kg penalty on 4+ animals is being discontinued from the end of June.

A spokesman for Meat Industry Ireland (MII) said other major beef processors will also cancel the concession, which was granted soon after the introduction of the quality payment system (QPS) for cattle.

The concession was due to end in April but the factories extended it by two months following intense lobbying by the farm organisations.

The penalty, applied to O-grade animals with 4+ fat scores, will increase to an average of 30c/kg and range from 24-36c/kg, while 4+ R-grade animals will also be penalised by between 6c/kg and 12c/kg.

Once the new penalty is imposed the average return on O4+ animals will be €105/hd below the base price (R3).

The processors have also indicated that a further reduction of 6c/kg will be applied from the end of October when they withdraw the concession on 4= grade animals.

It is estimated that the combined effect of both price changes will be a reduction of more than €3m in the value of the annual kill, based on last year's factory throughput.

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Meanwhile, the ICMSA has called on the Department of Agriculture to immediately review the operation and inspection procedures for grading machines in meat plants.

The farmer body has also demanded the introduction of an appeals system for those farmers not happy with their cattle grades.

The association's beef and cattle committee chairman, Kevin Connolly, said the results of all inspections should be published, as is currently done in relation to milk testing in dairy processing plants.

"When complaints were made about grading following the introduction of the QPS, they were dismissed out of hand by the Department and others, but those complaints have now been found to be credible," Mr Connolly said.

In light of the grading problems at the Dawn Meats plant in Grannagh, he said the immediate priority must be a review of the operation and inspection procedures for grading machines.

"These are the direct responsibility of the Department, consequently the minister should arrange a meeting between the farm organisations and meat processors to agree a code of practice governing the operation and calibration of the mechanical graders and the publication of departmental inspection results," he said.

"At the time of the introduction of the grading machines ICMSA sought an appeals system, but this was rejected by the Department, which claimed that the machines were effectively foolproof. This is obviously not the case so an appeals procedure must be agreed and implemented without delay," Mr Connolly added.

Given the "questionable" accuracy of the grading machines, Mr Connolly called on the meat plants to allow farmers the option to sell stock off the grid if they so wished.

Irish Independent