The talks, which took place over the weekend following an extended period of protests outside beef processing facilities around Ireland, aimed to resolve disputes over prices paid to producers versus retail prices. They involved processor trade body Meat Industry Ireland (MII), the Irish Farmers Association (IFA) and farmer lobby groups including Beef Plan Movement.
According to the IFA, points agreed upon included an increase in the in-spec bonus for steers and heifers from 12c/kg to 20c/kg; a new bonus of 8c/kg for steers and heifers aged between 30 to 36 months, which meet all non-age related existing in-spec criteria, and which up to now have not received any bonus and a new in-spec bonus of 12c/kg for steers and heifers under 30 months which grade O- and fat class 4+.
Other terms agreed include a reduction in the in-spec 70-day residency requirement to 60 days on the last farm and a new Beef Market Price index from Bord Bia covering cattle prices and beef market prices from our main export markets and offal prices (see box).
Although agreeing to the deal, IFA president Joe Healy said it was “far from perfect”.
“While there are some aspects which will make a difference immediately, there are others that will require a lot of further work,” he said.
Speaking to RTE, Beef Plan Movement chairman Hugh Doyle said the group was endorsing the deal while the Independent Farmers of Ireland said it would neither accept nor reject the terms.
In a statement, MII welcomed the outcome of the talks. “We recognise the challenges all involved in our industry face. The agreed package contains significant positive financial initiatives by MII members, in areas of specifications, bonuses and supply chain transparency.
“The Agreement requires that all protests and illegal blockades cease immediately so that normal processing can recommence, employees can return to work, farmers can sell their animals, and efforts can be made to rebuild customer confidence.”
The MII spokesman added that the dispute has causes severe damage to the Irish meat industry. “This has been an extremely damaging episode for all stakeholders in the beef and sheep sectors. It has occurred at a time of significant and continuing challenges in the EU beef market. It is of particular concern given the closeness of Brexit and the major implications that a No-deal outcome presents for our sector.
“Throughout the disruption over the last seven weeks, MII members have maintained close contact with their farmer suppliers with cattle to sell and with customers to reassure them of our continued commitment to being best in class at servicing customers requirements globally.”
- an immediate scientific review of the Quality Payment Grid by Teagasc;
- an independent review of market and customer requirements, specifically in relation to the four in-spec bonus criteria currently in operation in the Irish beef sector;
- an independent examination of the price composition of the total value of the animal, including the fifth quarter, along the supply chain.
- a summary of competition law issues as relevant to the Irish beef sector.
- Bord Bia will further intensify promotional activity for Irish beef across key EU markets and China and develop a PGI (Protected Geographical Indicator) for Irish beef.
- In advance of the implementation of a new EU Regulation on price reporting across the EU, Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) will provide additional detailed price reporting on the Beef PriceWatch app.
- A consultation process will be launched shortly on the transposition of the Unfair Trading Practices (UTP) Directive,including consideration of the requirement for an independent regulator.
- DAFM will report its carcass classification inspection results on a regular basis. An appeals system for manual grading factories is being introduced.
- Teagasc will review the hot/cold weighing system.
- DAFM will support the development of beef Producer Organisations.
- DAFM will continue to support the Live export trade