New ICSA chief wants ac­tion on deep­en­ing bull beef cri­sis

Irish Independent - Farming - - Front Page - Ken Whe­lan Martin Ryan

A CAR­TEL run by the beef processors is to blame for de­lib­er­ately de­pressed bull prices and anti-com­pet­i­tive prac­tices, del­e­gates at last Thurs­day's an­nual meet­ing of the ICSA claimed.

Fu­ri­ous del­e­gates went as far as acc us­ing Tea­gasc of i mplic­itly en­cour­ag­ing farm­ers to get into pro­duc­ing bull beef.

In­com­ing ICSA pres­i­dent Michael Kent told the meet­ing that cur­rent beef ex­port num­bers were mask­ing an ex­tremely se­ri­ous sit­u­a­tion in bull beef pro­duc­tion.

“It seems un­think­able that a farmer with qual­ity bulls in his shed can't get them killed. But that is what is hap­pen­ing from the north-west to the north-east,” he said.

“Farm­ers are won­der­ing if they would be be tter off in­vest­ing in Green­core or Glan­bia or Google in­stead of cat­tle.

“At least Green­core shares don't have to be fed ev­ery­day, they don't re­quire ex­pen­sive hous­ing and they are not s ub­jec t to cross-com­pli­ance in­spec­tions. Bet­ter still, you don't have to sell them at 16 months,” Kent said

“It 's not so long ago that beef processors cod­ded farm­ers and en­cour­aged them to un­der­mine the ex­port of calves to veal units in Hol­land. ‘Keep the Friesians at home boys,' they were told. The farm­ers re­sponded and now the im­pact is not only be­ing felt by those with Friesian bulls but long­stand­ing con­ti­nen­tal beef men,” Kent said.

“We are an­gry. We need an­swers. We need to get th­ese cat­tle pro­cessed,” he added.

SYM­PA­THY

Min­is­ter Si­mon Coveney, while sym­pa­thetic, said he could not in­struct the fac­to­ries to give more for bull beef than the mar­ket could ac­cept.

“Beef processors are in the mar­ket to make money and the mar­ket is not look­ing for bull beef, it is look­ing for steers with good mar­bling,” the min­is­ter pointed out.

But other farm lead­ers joined the ICSA in their con­dem­na­tion of meat processors ac­tions.

The IFA’s beef chair­man Henry Burns said farmer anger was at break­ing point now that steer and heifer prices were also be­gin­ning to weaken from l as t week's base pri c es of €4.00/kg and €4.10/kg re­spec­tively.

Mr Burns high­lighted that the ster­ling ex­change rate had im­proved from 84p against the euro in De­cem­ber to 82p over re­cent days, which he claimed was worth of 10c/kg on beef.

“R grade s teers in Bri­tain are mak­ing £3.81/kg , which i s t he equiv­a­lent of €4.82/kg and heifers are mak­ing £3.78/kg , equiv­a­lent to €4.78/kg in­clud­ing VAT,” he said.

The IFA leader said that bull prices in the main con­ti­nen­tal mar­kets of Italy, Ger­many, France and Spain have im­proved since last De­cem­ber.

FALL­OUT

The f al l out from de­pressed bull prices and the on­go­ing gap be­tween Bri­tish and Ir­ish prices has al­ready had a marked im­pact on live ex­ports.

The l at es t fi gures from t he Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture show that calf live ex­ports are up 64pc, while fin­ished cat­tle are up 34pc for the first four weeks of Jan­uary 2014.

Ex­port num­bers to Bri­tain in­creased by 50pc and 19pc to North­ern Ire­land over the pe­riod.

Mean­while, wean­lings and young store live ex­port num­bers plum­meted over the same pe­riod. Wean­lings were back by 66pc, while ex­ports of young stores were down by 46pc.

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