'Factories discriminate against livestock marts' - ICOS
The Irish Cooperative Society (ICOS) has hit out at meat processors over the Quality Payment System and what it called 'unreasonable restrictions' on animal movements.
On behalf of the co-operative marts sector, ICOS is participating in the beef industry talks taking place at Backweston between farmers, factories and officials from the Department of Agriculture.
Its understood talks between the Beef Plan, farming organisations, Meat Industry Ireland and Department officials which adjourned late last night were expected to agree a review of the grid with progress made on market transparency and the introduction of a price index.
However, the Farming Independent understands that several issues remain outstanding including factory weighing scales, written contract between farmers and factories and issues surrounding 30 month age restriction.
It is expected that the talks will re-convene on Thursday or Monday next.
In a statement following the meeting, ICOS said it was sad that it has taken a major market downturn and direct suffering among beef farmers to bring the factories to the table.
"Current measures by the factories radically exceed the provisions of the Bord Bia Beef and Lamb Quality Assurance Scheme which allows for movements between quality assured farms during the final 70 day period prior to slaughter.
"These practices stop free trade in animals even though the livestock are compliant with the relevant regulations in Ireland and the UK. This has subverted fair competition for livestock and has distorted trade and pricing in Ireland and the UK.
"Through their ‘conditions’, the factories discriminate against livestock marts where they have effectively removed the trade in factory fit animals from the marts," it said.
ICOS also highlighted that it is common practice in marts, while adhering fully to all animal transfer and traceability regulations, for an animal to be sold from farm to farm as it moves through fattening and onto slaughter.
"The so called ‘quality standards’ force farmers to forego selling through the marts system which has served to undermine free trade and proper price transparency," it claimed.
ICOS also noted that Irish factories have also developed very large feedlots which can have a throughput of tens of thousands of animals. It claimed this gives processors the capacity to increase supply at times of peak demand and to dampen market prices.
"Beef farmers are living in truly extraordinary times where the entire sector is being assailed from every direction with a consequent undermining of prices below an economically viable threshold for farming families," it said.