The beef markets task force must deliver results and not end up as a talking shop, Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers Association (ICSA) president Edmond Phelan has said.

Former secretary general at the Department of Agriculture Michael Dowling has been appointed by Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed to chair the task force.

Phelan said: “The onus is on the Minister and the chairman of the task force to ensure that the meat industry does not drag its heels or act as a barrier to progress.”

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Confidence

He said that many farmers had no confidence that real change could be delivered through the task force, as they saw previous efforts achieve very little.

“The first set of negotiations in August produced a result which was deeply unsatisfactory to many farmers and contributed to the prolonged blockade in September.”

Farmers are watching carefully and they want to see real change

Phelan said lessons had to be learned from the last talks. The meat industry could not be allowed to frustrate progress or have its red lines become the red lines for the task force, he said.

Phelan warned: “Farmers are watching carefully and they want to see real change.”

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Demands

He listed a number of key deliverables:

  • Transparency on the percentage of the final retail price delivered to farmers, taking account of the fifth quarter.
  • An independent, evidence-based assessment of whether in-spec criteria are justified by consumer demands.
  • Completion of the review of the grid with upwards adjustment of the U grade price to take account of the imbalance on the grid due to the proliferation of lower grade cattle.
  • Better oversight of factory floor grievances, such as trim and grading anomalies.
  • Full engagement by the retail trade.
  • Appointment of a regulator.
  • “The last thing that we want to see is farmers getting angry again, which is exactly what will happen if this task force ends up being like all previous efforts to address the dysfunctional relationship between farmers and factories,” Phelan said.

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