The body representing marts at yesterday’s beef talks said that concessions from meat factories are long overdue.
The Irish Co-operative Organisation Society (ICOS) said it had been calling out factories for years on “unreasonable restrictions” on animal movements
In a statement the ICOS said: “It is sad that it has taken a major market downturn and direct suffering among beef farmers to bring the factories to the table with long overdue concessions.”
The marts group said factories exceed Bord Bia requirements in quality assurance (QA) schemes which allow for movements between QA farms in the final 70 days prior to slaughter. It said the restrictions stopped the free trade of animals despite the livestock compling with Irish and UK regulations.
The statement continues: “Through their conditions, the factories discriminate against livestock marts where they have effectively removed the trade in factory fit animals from the marts. The so-called quality standards force farmers to forego selling through the marts system which has served to undermine free trade and proper price transparency."
Factory feedlots which “can have a throughput of tens of thousands of animals”, give processors the capacity to increase supply at peak times and dampen marker prices, according to ICOS.
ICOS said beef farmers are being assailed from every direction, with calls to reduce the national herd, a Mercosur trade deal and the prospect of a no-deal Brexit. Coupled with the “stranglehold that the meat factories have on the market”, ICOS said it was the perfect storm.
ICMSA president Pat McCormack said progress in the beef talks depend on the response of the meat industry to “reasonable and sensible preliminary proposals”. McCormack said factories had to demonstrate they understood things could not going as they were.
Factories had an opportunity to show in three areas – live weighing of animals, the 30-month rule and “supply contract” – that the present system was not working for farmers, McCormack said.
He added that these were not the main areas of contention but if factories were unwilling to be fair or reasonable then it did not bode well for further changes in more substantial areas.