Farm Ireland

Tuesday 20 March 2018

Pressure for QPS change gathers pace

Declan O'Brien

Declan O'Brien

Farmer opposition to the Quality Payment System (QPS) appears to be gathering pace. At two recent meetings I attended, the level of support for the new grid was thin on the ground at best.

The initiative is now under real pressure and its survival hangs in the balance. The processors appear determined to stick with the grid, but whether this is enough to save it is far from clear.

There was genuine anger and frustration expressed at the ICMSA meeting in Abbeyleix on Sunday. It could be argued that this was hardly surprising since the grid wasn't formulated to provide bonuses for dairy-cross animals.

But, given that the dairy herd provides more than 40pc of the total factory throughput, their concerns need to be addressed.

Many dairy farmers are already indicating that they are not going to keep bull calves this year. With exporters reporting strong demand on the continent, the likelihood is that record numbers will be shipped this spring.

There has already been a massive increase in the number of calves shipped over the past two years. Calf exports jumped from 57,000 in 2008 to 123,500 last year.

To quantify the knock-on effect on future slaughter figures, the loss of an additional 66,500 calves to the Irish processing sector will cut beef supplies by around 23,000t from late 2010 and early 2011. And this is before accounting for the increase in exports of weanlings and other categories.

Given the current level of demand from shippers, a further lift in calf exports is expected this spring. This will be reflected in an even greater slump in beef supplies from the dairy herd in late 2011 and early 2012.

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Processors seem resigned to this fact, but it has obvious implications for an industry which already has significant over-capacity.

However, should it come to pass that factories close because of falling numbers, the blame for this cannot be carried by farmers or shippers.

Irish Independent