Attempts by factories to reduce beef prices are unacceptable, the Irish Farmers Association (IFA) has warned.
IFA national livestock chair Brendan Golden said beef farmers do not have the capacity to absorb the production cost increases associated with cattle finishing and called on factories to be “stronger in the market place to reflect this in beef prices”.
Golden said that “tight supplies and strong global demand for beef is underpinning the trade” and highlighted that the prime export benchmark price for the latest week shows a price differential of 22c/kg with Ireland’s beef price.
He said this reflects the returns available from Ireland’s export markets for beef.
“There is clearly capacity in the market place to return higher prices and close this gap,” he said.
‘Low-income vulnerable sector’
The IFA national livestock chair described how “suckler and beef farming is a recognised low-income vulnerable sector” and said that it “does not have the capacity to absorb the input cost increases experienced this year”.
Golden said winter finishers are in the process of making key decisions for the coming months and, therefore, factories must reflect the realities of the current market in stronger prices now.
He called on factories to offer such winter finishers minimum price guarantees for their cattle for this winter and next spring.
He highlighted Teagasc analysis which shows that winter finishers will need a beef price of €5.85/kg to break-even this year “before any margin is factored in”.
He said meat factories and multi-national retailers are “acutely aware of this” and called on them to “provide surety for farmers in the form of minimum price guarantees to maintain our hard-earned consistent year-round supply of cattle”.
Brendan Golden suggested Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue has a critical role to play in supporting suckler and beef farmers.
He said the Minister must provide suckler and beef farmers with direct targeted support to offset the feed costs for this winter.
The Minister must also provide for longer-term direct supports for suckler farmers to bring the payment rate for suckler cows to €300/cow and provide €100 an animal for cattle rearing and finishing farmers, he said.
Brendan Golden said our most productive farmers are the most exposed to the current inputs crisis and are the sector of farmers who will lose most in the “flawed CAP policy” that will come into effect next year.
He said beef and suckler farmers must be “to the fore in Government supports in next week’s budget”.