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Irish farmers' anger at 'decimation' of income

A meeting in Navan organised by the Irish Farmers Association saw tempers flare over beef pricing.

Image: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

A MEETING LAST night organised by the Irish Farmers Association (IFA) hit fever pitch over restrictions on beef that British retailers are willing to buy.

Padraig Browne, group procurement director of the Dunbia Meat Group told the group that British retailers intended to reduce the age limit of bull calf beef again.

The IFA believe these changes are unacceptable and unworkable.

It was proposed that the age limit of bull calf beef could be reduced from 16 months to 14 months or less by some of the main retailers. The initial age limit was set at two years.

Speaking at the IFA livestock meetings in Navan, IFA President Eddie Downey said:

“With beef prices in our main markets in the UK and across the EU stable and recovering, the current attack on prices by the factories cannot be justified.

The anger and frustration of farmers over the way their incomes have been decimated is very real and farmers feel betrayed by the unacceptable behaviour of retailers and processors this year.

It is thought that a reduction in the age limit on bull calf beef would make it more difficult for farmers to continue with grass-fed cattle, a product they are very proud of.

The age restrictions would mean that grass could not be fed to the cattle.

Calls were made at the meeting for Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney to take stronger action over the issue. On this IFA President Downey said:

“The Minister must ensure that there is strong competition and transparency in the beef sector. Cattle prices must fairly reflect market returns. We need a strong live export trade to keep a balance in supplies an support viable prices”.

In a statement on the issue of beef specification, Minister Coveney said:

“As publicly stated, earlier this summer I made it very clear to processors that it is necessary to clarify and simplify specifications for customers so that farmers understand what exactly applies in terms of spec, bonuses and penalties.

There has been some confusion in this area for a number of months. That confusion should not be allowed to continue to the Autumn.

Speaking about the issue, president of the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) Patrick Kent said:

Only a strong, united response to this crisis is going to work now…ICSA is again calling on all farmers and farm organisations to consider withdrawing from the Quality Assured Scheme. We need to send a clear, unequivocal message to processors and retailers that farmers will not be bullied.

The IFA currently participate in the Quality Assured Scheme. This is aimed at ensuring a high quality product for consumers. Under the scheme farmers and beef factories have obligations to meet standards laid down by Bord Bia.

Read: Coveney: Irish beef will be on American shelves by autumn

Pictures: Thousands of farmers rally at Department of Agriculture over beef price cuts

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