Wednesday 26 June 2019

O'Keeffe - 'name and shame' factories that flout EU trim rules

Deputy Kevin O’Keeffe (FF)
Deputy Kevin O’Keeffe (FF)

Bill Browne

The Fianna Fail TD for Cork East, Kevin O'Keeffe has called on Agriculture Minister Michael Creed to publish a list of factories that flaunt strict EU carcass trim rules.

Deputy O'Keeffe was commenting after it emerged that fines of €200 have been imposed on more than 20 factories this year for failing to comply with the regulations.

Trimming takes place in advance of a carcass being weighed, with farmers  then paid on the basis of the post-trimmed weight. 

The EU regulations specifically state that no fat, muscle or other tissue may be removed from the carcass before weighing, classifying and marking. Except for cases when veterinary requirements are applied. However, Deputy O'Keeffe said the imposition of the fines on the factories have shown that farmers are being regularly "ripped off" in the process. 

"Understandably, farmers are angry following the revelation that 21 breaches of the carcass trim regulations have been uncovered so far this year," he said. 

"The factories that broke these regulations cost beef farmers money at a time when margins are already exceptionally tight. It's no surprise that farmers are disillusioned and feel they are being ripped off". 

Deputy O'Keeffe said farmers were also annoyed at the small penalty imposed on the factories that do flout the rules. 

"It is unfair that when beef farmers are being hit so hard, these factories should escape with such meagre fines. Minister Creed should not only expose the factories that breach the rules by publishing their names but should also explain why they escape with such small fines when penalties of up to €5,000 can be imposed," he said. 

"My party has already indicated that it will be raising the issue with the Minister in the Dáil. Farmers need to know this information to enable them to seek full compensation for the payments owing to them." 

Deputy O'Keeffe's sentiments have been echoed by IFA president Joe Healy, who said there was a responsibility on Minister Creed to release the names of the factories that have been fined. 

Mr Healy said that farmers had long suspected the practise was going on, also calling on the fine to be increased to the €5,000 maximum and for factories that continue to break the rules to be prosecuted through the courts - with custodial sentences for repeat offenders. 

"The IFA Livestock Committee has campaigned hard to get Minister Creed to introduce enhanced supervision of the trimming process in factories," said Mr Healy. 

"The time for slaps on the wrists has come and gone. We need a serious deterrent to ensure factories don't rob farmers on the trim," he added.