Nolan denies QPS loss of €16m likely
Claims that farmers would have lost €13-16m had the quality payment system (QPS) been applied to last year's cattle kill have been refuted by a leading factory boss.
Paul Nolan, of Dawn Meats, countered criticism of the new payments grid at a heated meeting in Abbeyleix, Co Laois, on Sunday.
ICMSA president Jackie Cahill told the crowd of more than 350 that the grid was costing farmers on a daily basis.
He said an analysis of last year's cattle kill indicated that farmers would have lost somewhere between €13m and €16m had QPS been in operation.
However, this assertion was challenged by Mr Nolan, who insisted that the grid was 'price neutral' across the full kill.
Mr Nolan repeated the factory position that QPS was designed to reward quality and provide signals for beef producers based on the type of animal that was required by consumers and retailers.
He said any move to row back on the grid would be a retrograde step and warned that getting all parties in the beef sector to agree an alternative payment system could not be guaranteed.
"If we lose this opportunity then we will not get another one for some time," insisted Mr Nolan.
But Mr Cahill again reiterated the ICMSA's call for the grid to be run in parallel with the old payment system for 12 months so that farmers would become accustomed to it and any flaws in the system could be ironed out.
He said the association was seeking a meeting with Meat Industry Ireland (MII) to flesh out this proposal.
There was intense criticism of the QPS from the floor of the meeting, with the complexity of the payment system, the low base price and the manner in which it had been introduced featuring as the main sources of complaint.
Several dairy farmers indicated that they would give up finishing Friesian and Holstein-cross bull calves because of the penalties being imposed under the grid.
One farmer told the meeting that a shipper had come into his yard uninvited last week and this was the route he would now take with his British Friesian bulls.
When asked if he wanted P-grade cattle, Mr Nolan admitted that he'd prefer if he didn't get them.
In a detailed presentation to the meeting he explained that the factories were now looking for the right quality stock, at the correct weight, age and fat score.
Mr Nolan declined to give farmers a commitment that prices would lift in the medium term, pointing out that it was an issue of supply and demand.
There was an angry reaction to a comment from the factory boss that demand for beef could be down this week because credit card bills were generally due around this time of the month.
"Will I go down to my cattle and tell them 'listen, don't get fat this week because the credit card bills are coming across Europe'?" Kildare beef farmer Mary O'Loughlin asked.
Castleisland Mart manager Richard Harnett said the base price being offered was "scandalous".
He described last year as the worst year in the cattle trade since 1974, and claimed that the only saving grace for the sector was the live shipping trade.
Referring to the difficulties encountered in opening up the live trade to Britain, Mr Harnett remarked that it was just as well that some of Ireland's leading processors hadn't got factories in Spain or Italy.
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