Factory price cuts pile on the misery for beef farmers

Prices back by 5-10c/kg as farm leaders demand answers from the Taoiseach over Mercosur 'sell-out'

'Let us hope that all farming interests, and others, support the Beef Plan Movement when it holds a national protest outside the Dáil on Wednesday at noon.' Stock image
'Let us hope that all farming interests, and others, support the Beef Plan Movement when it holds a national protest outside the Dáil on Wednesday at noon.' Stock image
Margaret Donnelly

Margaret Donnelly

Farmers are demanding answers from the Taoiseach as beef prices fall and the details of the Mercosur deal emerge.

The deal, which will see an extra 99,000t of beef from the four South American countries - Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay - gain access to EU shelves won't take effect for a number of years, but already its impact is being felt by beef farmers.

Irish farmers, already reeling from Brexit uncertainty, say the EU-Mercosur deal paves the way for an increase in imports of cheaper beef from South America and could cost them as much as €750m.

EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan admitted over the weekend that the EU was on the defensive on beef in the negotiations.

It comes as beef farmers took the picket line outside Kepak Athleague to protest over falling beef prices.

Factory quotes for beef were back 5-10c/kg across the board yesterday morning, with prices for bullocks now ranging from €3.65-3.70/kg, while heifers are on €3.75-3.80/kg. Bull prices are back to €3.65/kg for R grades.

Farmers are also reporting that it's becoming increasingly difficult to get cattle killed.

Phil Hogan added a sweetener and clarification on what would happen should any country fail to meet its climate change commitments under the terms of the deal.

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"We've secured for the first time in a free trade agreement, €1 billion in financial support, and common market organisation support in the event of a market disturbance when it's implemented.

"If president Bolsonaro of Brazil wishes to follow Mr Trump in pulling out of the climate agreement then this agreement falls," Commissioner Hogan maintained.

Farming organisations say the 99,000t of extra beef coming into the EU from South America will not just damage Irish beef farming, but also the environment.

"The deal, is a clear indication that climate change has a price," according to INHFA president, Colm O'Donnell.

The trade deal will "accelerate the ongoing destruction of the rain forests at the very time Commissioner Hogan is suggesting that Irish farmers should plant more trees," he added.

Mr O'Donnell claimed the deal will have a "devastating" impact on the wider farm sector and rural communities.

"For this reason it is vital that our Government and all elected public representatives do everything they can to undermine this deal."

IFA president Joe Healy said EU negotiators colluded in a deal that has sold out Irish and European farmers and the association is seeking a meeting with the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

"This is a bad deal for Ireland and for Irish farmers. It's a bad deal for the environment, and it's a bad deal for EU standards and consumers."

The IFA president called on the Taoiseach make it clear to Brussels that Ireland will not ratify this deal.

Mr Varadkar said the Government will conduct an economic assessment of the trade deal and would vote against it if it showed the disadvantages of the agreement outweighed the benefits.

However, the Taoiseach admitted that Ireland alone cannot block a new EU trade deal, and he has not ruled out ultimately backing the plan.

Indo Farming

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