Beef dispute talks adjourned as hopes for price index emerge

Beef Plan movement says processor and retailer not farmer get most of consumer price

Talks in the beef dispute continued late last night after all sides set out their respective positions on prices paid to cattle producers by meat processors.

Members of the grassroots Beef Plan movement met representatives of the IFA, Meat Industry Ireland and Department of Agriculture, at 2pm in a bid to find a settlement to the increasingly bitter dispute between farmers and processors over prices paid for cattle.

Sources indicated that some progress had been made, with “movement” on a beef price index which would provide transparency on what is paid for processed beef abroad. It is understood Bord Bia is assisting with plans to draw up an index.

Speaking during a break in negotiations late last night, IFA president Joe Healy said progress had been made in discussions on transparency on pricing and "a review of the grid system".

The grid is a system which ranks cattle by the letters E, U, R, O and P, as well as fat stores under the numbers 1,2,3.

A good cow

A good beef cow would be a U3 while a good dairy cow would be a P2.

Mr Healy said a document would be put together on the nature of the review of the grid and would be studied by all parties.

Mr Healy reiterated that farmers needed to know the Government response to Brexit, which he said should include about €1 billion in supports and direct aid.

During the round-table discussions at the Department of Agriculture’s Backweston Campus in Co Kildare, the Beef Plan movement put forward its case that beef processors and retailers got the largest share of the consumer price for beef.

This was against the background of processors and retailers handling cattle for a few days, they said, while farmers spent two years rearing cattle.

Members of Beef Plan have claimed that for every €10 of beef bought off shelves, the farmer takes €2, the processor gets €2.90, and the supermarket gets €5.10.

Mr Healy said beef farmers’ incomes were totally unsustainable and he quoted Teagasc National Farm Survey data for 2018 which showed cattle-rearing incomes at €8,813 on average.


He said “confidence, hope and viability have been destroyed by the factories and this has to change”.

Meat processors, represented by Meat Industry Ireland, had earlier said “real damage has been done to domestic and export business” as a result of the protests and it was “high time for the sector to get back to business”.

“Processing needs to take place if we are to avoid losing more customers for Irish beef and lamb,” it said.