Friday 20 September 2019

Call for EU competition watchdog to examine EU beef sector

Mairead McGuinness. Photo: PA
Mairead McGuinness. Photo: PA
Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

Mairead McGuinness MEP and first Vice-President of the European Parliament has initiated moves for the Parliament's Agriculture committee to examine the crisis which has led to prolonged protests at meat plants and despair among farmers.

The MEP said she has asked that DG competition as well as DG Agriculture come to committee to look at the beef sector across the EU and give some clarity to farmers about future policy development.

Her proposal for a forensic look at the beef sector has been supported by the political groups who recognise the reality that the future of the beef sector and the suckler herd, is not just an issue in Ireland but in many other member states.

“I welcome the statement from Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed that he will facilitate new talks between all parties to the beef dispute on Monday next,” she said.

“Every effort must be made by the stakeholders to reach an agreement. But the protests reflect a deep concern among beef farmers about their immediate and long term future.”

She said while the crisis is most severe in Ireland, beef farmers across the EU have seen prices fall.

“The perfect storm of weak demand, Brexit uncertainties and increased supply is taking its toll.

“That is why it is important that the issues impacting the sector are debated in the Agriculture Committee and that we try to bring much needed transparency to the beef supply chain from farm to fork and get some insight into who benefits most.

"It is abundantly clear that farmers remain price takers, with little power other than that of protest to try and get a price increase,” she said.

Ms McGuinness said the debate should ignite the Commission into action to come forward with a plan for the sector which is vital to rural Ireland and rural Europe.

“Unfortunately, we are in the period of a new Commission formation, with an expectation that Commissioner Hogan will not remain in the agriculture portfolio.

“The incoming commissioner, whoever he or she is, must take up the challenge of the beef sector as a priority.

“In Ireland, deep distrust exists between farmers and processors which is exacerbating the situation,” she said.

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