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Statement from Minister Coveney on Irish Beef Prices

I am acutely aware of the importance of the beef sector and sensitive to the concerns of farmers at this time. The current downward pressure on Irish beef prices is of course replicated in the UK, which is our main export market and in other key EU markets.

Against the background of the current concerns, I invited key stakeholders, including farm organisations, beef processors and relevant state agencies, to a round table discussion on the future development of the beef sector on 17 April and chaired a second meeting on 3 June. There have already been a number of initiatives in the wake of this forum.

  • My Department is examining the possibility of legislating for the recognition of producer organisations in the beef sector, and will shortly be launching a consultation with key stakeholder groups in this regard. This initiative could provide a vehicle for collective action by farmers in a way that can give them the advantages of scale and market presence, as well as a useful vehicle for transferring technology and expertise to improve profitability at farm level. 
  • An additional €0.5million has been allocated by Bord Bia to an intensified marketing campaign for Irish beef in UK and on Continental markets.
  • On the question of price transparency, my department has improved its website in order to make price information more user friendly for farmers. This is a key step along the road to developing a Beef Pricewatch app for mobile phones and tablets.
  • The Dowling report which I commissioned also calls on processors to ensure that communication with farmers on any changes to market specifications takes account of the normal production cycle.
  • I am making arrangements to ensure that Teagasc, Bord Bia and ICBF engage to ensure that advice, education and breeding policy remains consistent with evolving market realities.

On questions of price, these are matters for the market, and for negotiation between the contracting parties. It was recognised in the Dowling Report however, that there was a need for improvement in communications between processors and farmers on questions of price and market specification.

In addition, the report recommended a simple and transparent system of price recognition for animals within market specification, based on the application of the Quality Payments System with a bonus to incentivise production to optimal market specification. Beef farms are the bedrock infrastructure of a critically important Irish industry and while the suppliers are subject to the same market realities as others, it is important that their vulnerability to sharp changes in market conditions is recognised, and that the relationship between parties along the beef supply chain is carefully managed with this in mind. This is critically important if supply is to be maintained and the beef sector is to perform to its potential in the future. 

Of course the key objective of the beef forum was to provide a vehicle, but not the only vehicle, to facilitate positive engagement between stakeholders in the beef sector, including processors and farmers. At this juncture I would urge the stakeholders to reflect carefully on the proceedings at the first two meetings of the beef forum, and on the Dowling report, and to take time to engage with each other on its recommendations in order to find mutually satisfactory solutions to the current issues. It is clearly the case that the best interests of the industry will be served by honest engagement, transparency, clear communications, and by recognition of the legitimate concerns of each of the parties.

As stakeholders are aware, I have already committed to facilitating further engagement between stakeholders on the development of the industry, but it is neither appropriate nor legally possible for me to intervene on the question of price.

In the meantime there has already been a significant commitment by Government to investment in the beef sector through a revised Common Agricultural Policy negotiated during the Irish Presidency of the EU in 2013, including a Single Farm Payment worth €1.2 billion to Irish farmers annually, through the Rural Development Programme 2014-2020 (€295million for Beef Data and Genomics), and in 2014, through the Beef Data, Genomics and Technology Adoption Programmes which will result in investment of some €40 million in the sector.

I will continue to ensure that the beef sector is a priority in the development of a policy and support framework for agri-food in the period ahead.

 

 View Statement as a PDF: Statement 83/2014 (pdf 142Kb) 

 

 

 

 

 

Date Released: 17 June 2014