Beef factories are operating a “very oblique, secretive process”, says Sinn Féin agriculture spokesperson Matt Carthy TD.
Speaking to the Irish Farmers Journal at this week’s National Ploughing Championships in Rathnieska, Co Laois, Carthy said beef processors are “unlimited companies by and large which means they don’t have to publish their accounts and people will naturally ask why is that the case”.
He said that if in Government, Sinn Féin would “absolutely” be firmer on beef processors and that the party would introduce a “food regulator with teeth” to “force” price transparency.
“Within the food chain, everybody knows how much a consumer pays for the product in the supermarket because it’s published on the supermarket shelf.
“Everybody knows how much a farmer gets for their product whether it be in the marts or the factories. It’s publicly available information but the thing is nobody knows what profits are being made anywhere else along the line,” the Sinn Féin TD said.
Matt Carthy TD said that the farm sector “can’t continue” with the current lack of transparency from beef processors.
“I think in the interest of fairness and the interest of securing our beef sector, we need to ensure transparency because we can’t continue along these lines.
“For all the talk about climate action, the big irony in Irish agriculture is the more sustainable a farmer is, the least profitable they’re likely to be and the least economically sustainable. That’s not either fair or just.”
The Cavan-Monaghan TD said Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue has been “minimalistic in his approach” on his move to establish an Office of Fairness and Transparency for the food sector.
“The heads of bill [to establish the office] provide very little pathway that we could give assurances to farmers that we will actually see the type of transparency and accountability in terms of prices, particularly in the beef sector.
“One of the things we’ll be doing even in opposition in the next couple of months is bringing forward amendments to try and strengthen the provisions of it and hopefully Government will see sense.
“We need a regulatory authority with corporate enforcement powers,” he said.
Responding, Minister McConalogue claimed “Sinn Féin have very much flip flopped on this issue”.
“I welcome the fact that they want to see a strong regulator and transparency office in place and that’s certainly something that I am determined to deliver,” he said.
The minister said he plans to have the Office of Fairness and Transparency “operational over the next couple of months”.