Saturday 16 December 2017

Shoppers not gaining from beef price cuts to farmers

Consumers are not benefiting from the massive cuts in beef prices. Thinkstock Images
Consumers are not benefiting from the massive cuts in beef prices. Thinkstock Images
Aideen Sheehan

Aideen Sheehan

CONSUMERS are not benefiting from the massive cuts in beef prices which are causing huge hardship for farmers.

Cattle prices paid to farmers have plummeted by nearly 17pc in the last year - yet shoppers have only seen a paltry 0.6pc cut in the retail price of beef.

The latest agricultural price index from the Central Statistics Office show overall farmgate prices are down 10pc in the last year.

Cattle farmers have seen a massive 16.6pc drop in what they're getting for their animals at market.

However, Irish retail prices for beef have only dropped by 0.6pc in the same period, CSO figures show.

The Irish Farmers Association has warned that many beef farmers will be unable to survive another year in business if the prices they are getting don't improve soon.

IFA livestock chairman Henry Burns said moves by the meat factories to try and impose further cattle price cuts in the last week are totally unjustified as prices in the main UK market have stabilised in recent weeks and remain well ahead of Irish levels.

Farm groups have blamed meat factories and retailers for squeezing farmers to maintain their own profits.

However, Ciaran Fitzgerald of IBEC's meat industry division said that as 95pc of Irish beef is exported.

The retail prices here don't necessarily reflect the prices paid in the factories which are more linked to wider European prices. These had risen by 2pc a year over the last five years which had been good news for farmers, but inevitably given this exposure to international markets, there would be periods like the current one where beef prices fell.

Meat processors also did not set the prices charged by retailers, he said.

Stephen Lynam of IBEC's retail section meanwhile said supermarkets could not be blamed for the drops in prices paid to farmers.

"Retailers don't buy from farmers, they buy from processors or factories or slaughterhouses," he said.

"The grocery sector has been incredibly competitive over the last few years and food price inflation is actually down, so the idea that consumers are being screwed by retailers is nonsense," he said.

The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers Association said that the fact this year's Teagasc Rural Development conference will focus on finding off-farm employment showed how bad things had become for livestock farmers.

"Unless the Government stands up to the large multinational retailers who are hell-bent on driving down farm viability while they benefit from increasing retail prices for Irish beef, we are going nowhere," said ICSA rural development chairman Billy Gray.

The new CSO figures show that potato farmers have fared worst of all in the last year with farmgate prices down by 65pc in the last year, while tillage farmers have seen prices drop by 28pc.

However, pig farmers have seen prices rise by almost 8pc, while sheep farmers have seen an increase of 4.6pc, and those selling calves have seen prices jump by 19.5pc.

Farm milk prices are down 1.5pc, while poultry prices are down 3pc, and egg prices are down 7.6pc according to the figures comparing prices in June 2014 and June 2013.

Irish Independent

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