Pressure mounts on Coveney as beef price anger increases
IFA warn crisis will be an issue at local and European elections
ONGOING tensions in the beef sector are set to spill over into local and European elections as the IFA cranked up the pressure on the Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney, this week.
Analysis by the Farming Independent shows that Irish beef producers have experienced price declines up to six times greater than their EU counterparts, with R3 heifer and steer prices down by up to €200/hd over the last 12 months.
The IFA's livestock chairman Henry Burns warned the Minister at a beef meeting last week that "he is the Minister for Agriculture and not the Minister for factories."
"He defended them very well last year in the horse meat scandal, but now he needs to show that he is on the farmers' side because he has not done that yet.
"There is a credibility issue for the Minister," added Mr Burns. "He appears to be completely under-estimating the level of frustration and anger at farm level. With the local and European elections just around the corner and cattle farming being in every single parish, the beef crisis will be a major political issue."
Mr Burns also demanded that both Bord Bia and the Minister meet immediately with the Northern Minister, Michelle O'Neill, to insist that Irish cattle are not blocked out of these markets with "artificial anti-competitive barriers."
He added that farmers needed guarantees that factories would not have access to the Department of Agriculture's animal movements database.
Meanwhile, the Minister's refusal to approve the appointment of a regulator for the beef industry has been attacked by Fianna Fáil's agriculture spokesman Éamon Ó Cuív, who said "there needs to be a shift in power to a more equitable system between the farmer and the processor.
"The very heart of rural Ireland is being damaged by this crisis, yet the Minister is happy to stand back and support big business interests. What we need is strong independent regulation.
"I want to see a regulator appointed to ensure that farmers get a fair price for their beef and are not exploited or taken advantage of," he added.
The ICSA said that the minister needed to admit that Food Harvest 2020 for the suckler herd is dead.
"All the talk about the importance of the suckler herd is just waffle," said suckler chairman, Dermot Kelleher.
The latest attacks on Minister Coveney come as new figures reveal the full extent of the crisis being experienced by Irish finishers. Comparative prices compiled by the Department of Agriculture and Bord Bia show that the decline in beef prices paid to Irish producers has been far steeper than that experienced by producers in Britain, France, Germany, and Italy.
The value of the typical 330KG R3= heifer has slumped by €197 here in Ireland over the past year compared to €65 in the UK, €69 in France, €36 in Germany and €33 in Italy. The price decline for R3 steers has been almost three times greater than in Italy and more than double the fall in Britain and Germany.
A 380 KG R3= steer is worth €179 less to an Irish producer than a year ago. The comparable figure for Britain is €82.
In France, it’s €102, in Germany €80 and in Italy €68 less than March 2013.
The Bord Bia figures shot that the average prices currently being paid for R3 steers across the five countries are : Ireland 391C/KG; Italy 409C/G; France 414C/KG; Germany 420C/KG, and Britain 455C/KG (vat inclusive).
Meanwhile, the strong prices in Britain have not been enough to reverse the ongoing decline in numbers in its national beef herd.
While 2013'S figures only showed a marginal fall of 3pc, the shrinkage appears set to continue with male and female calf numbers down by more than 5PC.
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