ICMSA calls meeting on grid worries

Declan O'Brien & Martin Ryan

The ICMSA has intensified its campaign for a renegotiation of the new beef payment grid by calling a public meeting for this Sunday.

The move is certain to exacerbate tensions between the milk supplier body and the IFA, with the latter steadfastly defending the recently introduced quality payment system (QPS).

The ICMSA expects close to 500 farmers to attend Sunday's meeting at the Abbeyleix Manor Hotel, Abbeyleix, Co Laois.

Kevin Connolly, the association's beef and cattle committee chairman, claimed the grid was causing "uproar and chaos" among farmers.

He said it actively discriminated against animals coming from the dairy herd and warned that a tide of resentment was building among farmers.

"Nobody is able to explain how the prices are arrived at, and most farmers are being left with significant losses," Mr Connolly said.

"The new system seems set up so that animals coming from an elite group of breeders are being very well rewarded at the expense of the vast majority," he added.

Mr Connolly said representatives from the factories and livestock marts had been invited to attend the Abbeyleix meeting.

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The ICMSA has called for the new grid to be suspended for a year while its impact is assessed.

It wants the quality-assurance bonus to be paid on all cattle from quality-assured farms and called for the Department of Agriculture to publish grid fat and conformation results so its impact could be objectively analysed.

"The bottom line here for farmers is that the majority of them will be getting lower prices under the new grid. That's not acceptable," Mr Connolly said.

However, the IFA has defended the QPS, with senior IFA officials insisting that the grid would deliver benefits for farmers once an increase in the base price was secured.

"When we were negotiating the QPS, it was agreed that there would have to be an increase in the base price for the system to work," said Kevin Kinsella, executive secretary of the IFA national livestock committee.

"The grid was based on a very detailed analysis of the kill to ensure that, overall, farmers would not lose out, and we can defend the QPS in any discussion."

IFA president John Bryan said cattle prices must increase by at least 15c to 20c/kg in order to halt the losses being incurred by winter finishers.

"With strong UK and EU beef prices and sterling back at less than 88p/€1, there is major scope in the market for factories to lift beef prices," Mr Bryan said.

At a meeting with the factories last week the IFA called for 4= to be part of the base price on a permanent basis.

The farmer body also want factories to clearly print the base price on all dockets and identify the cattle that are receiving the 'in spec' quality assurance bonus.

Mr Bryan said IFA was not going to allow a situation continue where the QPS was impacting unfairly on cattle farmers.

Irish Independent

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