Withdrawing from beef production

 

Sir, – The beef farmers’ protest highlights the loss-making position many farmers are experiencing because the price they receive from the processors falls short of the costs of production by at least €150 per head. Because of the dominant position of the UK market where we export approximately 90 per cent of our total production of Irish beef, this situation is almost certain to get worse with whatever form of Brexit materialises.

It is therefore inevitable that the beef farmers will need, and deserve, very substantial financial support from the Government, and the European Union, in both the short- and medium-term future.

However it is very clear that whatever the future holds, beef farming will remain uneconomic, and it is never a good idea to try to give long-term support to a loss-making industry that is unviable. At the same time beef farmers provide a critical part of the social structure of rural Ireland.

It is hard to ignore that farming, and beef farming in particular, is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, particularly methane gas, from rumen metabolic digestion.

I therefore believe that the time has come to embark on a 10-year programme of withdrawal from beef production in Ireland and its replacement with other forms of environmentally compatible rural activities which will develop economic stability to replace the beef industry. Such a programme of disengagement will require very substantial Government and EU financial supports over the implementation phase, maybe in the billions of euro. A cost benefit analysis of a) the withdrawal from a loss-making industry, b) savings from carbon emission payments and c) the profits from replacement rural activities, could quite quickly be carried out.

It is outside the scope of this letter to define the environmentally compatible rural activities that may be available but forestry, wind farming, vegetable growing in massive polytunnels, building of pumped water storage reservoirs, freshwater lakes and tourist activities are some of the potential areas for investment.

When should we start, how about October 31st? – Yours, etc,

GRAEME GUTHRIE,

Westport, Co Mayo.