Farmers frustrated by beef prices despite talks progress

Farmers have been attempting to secure an increase in prices, which they say have been as much as €350 less per head than in the UK.

Beef farmers at a protest outside the Department of Agriculture. Photograph: Eric Luke / The Irish Times

Beef farmers at a protest outside the Department of Agriculture. Photograph: Eric Luke / The Irish Times

 

Beef farmers remain “deeply frustrated” over cattle prices despite some agreements being reached with producers at talks earlier this week.

The executive council of the Irish Farmers Association met yesterday to discuss the ongoing issue which has sparked recent demonstrations at meat producing plants.

“At today’s meeting, our county chairmen reflected the views of the thousands of farmers who supported our 48-hour protest this week, who are resolute in their determination that factories respond on prices,” the association’s president Eddie Downey said in a statement last night.

Farmers have been attempting to secure an increase in prices, which they say have been as much as €350 less per head of cattle than in the UK.

Mr Downey said the executive council was satisfied significant progress was made at the Beef Forum on separate specification issues which have “bedevilled the relationship between farmers and the meat factories all year”. It will meet again tomorrow.

Progress

Yesterday, Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney welcomed progress in the talks between farmers and processors.

There were commitments that farmers would not face price penalties over weight specifications before the end of 2015; and on a quality payment system, which states there should be no dual base pricing based on breed, age or weight, the Department of Agriculture said in a statement.

It also said there had been a commitment from processors to provide a price incentive for all steers and heifers from quality-assured farms from January 1st; that a market price transparency index would be developed based on different beef categories, and that clearer documentation would be provided to farmers showing factors contributing to the price paid for animals.

However, there was no agreement on beef prices which have been the primary concern of farmers who have recently blockaded meat processing plants across the State in protest at the prices they are receiving compared to counterparts in other countries. The meat industry had accused farmers of using inaccurate price comparisons.

The Beef Forum talks, chaired by former civil servant Michael Dowling, were unable to focus on prices after a warning from the newly formed Competition and Consumer Protection Commission against straying into price fixing during negotiations.