No shocks in roundtable talks on beef
There were no real surprises from the 'round-table discussions' on the beef sector in Dublin Castle last week.
What had been suggested would happen came to pass, with Minister Simon Coveney banking on improved "communication and transparency" to help ease the recent difficulties in the industry.
He also announced a raft of new measures which are hoped will ease the serious problems being experienced by farmers.
The standout measures include a targeted marketing campaign in Britain and, in specific, Continental markets for Irish beef. This initiative will have a €500,000 budget and falls in to Bord Bia's bailiwick.
The launch of the Beef Pricewatch service by the Department of Agriculture is also being viewed as a positive development.
Similarly, the decision to provide additional supports for suckler farmers who undertake capital investments has been welcomed.
The other measures announced are those which have grabbed the headlines already.
It will be interesting to see what comes of the quarterly meetings between factories and farm organisations.
Cynics may argue that it will become a talking shop, where farmer concerns are fobbed off by the processors.
However, it will provide an official forum for the wider industry to meet and discuss issues of concern and this has to be welcomed. In addition, the fact that the minister will chair these meetings personally will give them greater significance.
What will come from Michael Dowling's review is harder to say. It will depend on his report and how bold and ambitious he aims to be in the actions he proposes. Mr Dowling is due to report back by the end of May; farmers and processors will await his findings with interest.
Overall, there has been a cautious response to Minister Coveney's initiative from the farm organisations. Most are unwilling to rain on his parade and are willing to wait and see what comes of the process.
However, as Sean Coughlan of Macra correctly pointed out, the real measure of the initiative's worth will be whether returns to farmers improve or not.
Farmers will also want to know if the budget for the marketing campaign in Britain is 'new money' or if the plan and financial supports were already in place and it is only a repackaging of existing funding.
The same goes for the capital investment initiative on suckler farms. Farmers will want to know how much is available and when will the scheme be open for applications.
They will also want a start date for the Beef Pricewatch.
Most of all, however, farmers will want an improvement in beef prices.
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