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Farm leaders call for Coveney to intervene in beef price row

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IFA livestock chairman Henry Burns at a previous protest outside the Department of Agriculture. Photo: Tom Burke.

IFA livestock chairman Henry Burns at a previous protest outside the Department of Agriculture. Photo: Tom Burke.

IFA livestock chairman Henry Burns at a previous protest outside the Department of Agriculture. Photo: Tom Burke.

Farm leaders have called the Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney, to intervene and halt the ongoing slide in beef prices.

The move follows the latest attempt by the beef factories to pull prices for both in-spec heifers and steers below the €4/kg benchmark.

Quotes for heifers this week are at €3.95/kg, the lowest for heifers since autumn 2012. Steers quotes have also edged down this week to just under €4/kg.

The price drop has happened against the backdrop of IFA protests outside key meat processing plants around the country last Wednesday. The organisation claimed that 1,500 farmers picketed plants at Clonee, Co Meath, Granagh, Co Waterford and Nenagh, Co Tipperary.

Its leadership has now demanded that Minister Coveney gets off the sidelines in this deepening dispute.

"The minister needs to bring in the meat factories and challenge them on their commitment to paying a viable cattle price to farmers," said IFA president Eddie Downey in a statement yesterday.

DERAIL

He claimed that current cattle prices had the potential to totally derail the Food Harvest 2020 plan.

"It is not acceptable to farmers that Minister Coveney would consider that he has no role with the factories on cattle prices," he said.

Heifer prices are at least €50/hd lower than this time last year, while the IFA claim that bull finishers are facing losses of up to €200/hd.

While prices traditionally begin to rise at this time of year, additional stock that were held back from the live export trade two years ago are significantly increasing supplies at the factory gate.

Last week's kill of 31,491hd keeps the weekly kill at least 1,000hd ahead of 2013 levels. January figures were up even more, at 9,671hd more than last year. Steer numbers were up by 5,185hd, heifers were up by 4,172hd and cows were up by 4,708hd. The young bull kill was back by 4,527hd.

Some industry observers predict that it will take another five months for the additional stock to clear through the system.

Commenting on the latest cuts, ICSA beef chairman Edmond Phelan said that it was a new low to see cattle prices falling at a time when costs are highest.

SIGNAL

IFA livestock chairman Henry Burns said farmers were getting a strong signal to revert to live exporting their dairy bull calves to avoid damage to the beef price.

He also accused the meat processors of undercutting each other in export markets.

Mr Burns has highlighted the strengthening of Sterling against the the Euro over the last week, which he claims is worth an extra 10c/kg to the meat processors.

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